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Dozens of tennis players face match-fixing probe by Spanish police

By Associated Press Reporter

Spanish police have revealed they are investigating 28 professional tennis players over alleged match-fixing

Authorities did not reveal the names of those under investigation but said one player competed in last year's US Open.

Police said an Armenian organised group allegedly bribed athletes for betting purposes.

A total of 15 people were arrested, including some of the tennis players, after 11 houses were raided. Luxury vehicles, a shotgun, credit cards and 167,000 euros (£151,000) in cash was seized.

European Union law enforcement agency Europol, which supported the operation led by Spanish authorities, said at least 97 matches from lower-tier Futures and Challenger tournaments were fixed.

Police have accused Spanish player Marc Fornell-Mestres, whose highest career singles ranking was 236 in 2007, of acting as the link between players and the Armenian ring that bribed them.

The 36-year-old was provisionally suspended from professional tennis at the end of last year, according to the Tennis Integrity Unit, which said the suspension related to an investigation into "alleged breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program".

Fornell-Mestres was ranked 1007 in singles and 772 in doubles at the end of 2018.

It was a warning by the Tennis Integrity Unit in 2017 that prompted Spanish authorities to begin the investigation.

Police said the organised group bribed the players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to place international bets on the matches.

Authorities said members of the Armenian ring attended the matches to ensure the players complied with what was previously agreed.

In total, 83 people were implicated in the probe, including the alleged leaders of the Armenian group. More than 40 bank accounts used by those allegedly involved with the ring were blocked by authorities.

Police are also investigating what they suspect are strong links between some of the suspects arrested in Spain and an Armenian-Belgian crime gang broken up by Belgium police last year, also suspected of fixing tennis matches.

In the Belgium case, police announced in June the arrest of 13 people in Belgium and said the gang also targeted lower-level tennis matches.

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