Four tennis players are detained in France for alleviating the suspicion of having helped an organized gaming consortium that is believed to have hundreds of lower-tier games.
The players are suspected of having worked for Grigor Sargsyan, the 28-year-old maestro. The police believe that the Belgium-based Kingpin has paid more than 100 players from at least half a dozen countries.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details publicly, said at least one suspect that he had committed about two dozen matches for Sargsyan.
They named the players as Jules Okala, 21; Mick Lescure, 25; Yannick Thivant, 31; and Jerome Inzerillo, 28th In the highest tennis games no one was active. The career best-single ranking of all was 354, which Inzerillo reached in 2012. The arrests of Okala and Lescure were reported Wednesday by the French sports paper L’Equipe.
The arrests are one of those months in which police have been forced to dig all over Europe to unravel a massive match-fixing system organized via encrypted messages, involving dozens of low-ranked players who can hardly compete with small tournaments ,
It is expected that in the next few days or weeks, a dozen other French players will be interviewed. An investigator said France was one of the syndicate’s hardest hit countries, focusing on lower pro-circuit tournaments. Okala and Lescure were jailed for part in a modest tournament in Bressuire, France, for a total prize pool of $ 15,000.
The investigators have also questioned other players in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia and Bulgaria and want to interview others, including players and managers, in the US, Chile and Egypt.
Police say Sargsyan has hired mules. People signed up for a few euros to place bets on the syndicate that were small enough to land under the gambling watchdog’s radar.
In total, more than 100 players are suspected of having collaborated with the consortium to repair games, sets or games for between € 500 and € 3,000 ($ 570 to $ 3,400), sometimes with encrypted messages.
“We have the impression that it is very commonplace,” said an AP official. Another said that several hundred matches had probably been fixed.
Investigators fear that players corrupted by the Syndicate could involve others in the system if they were not controlled, and could infect larger tournaments if they climb higher in the tennis leaderboard.
“Over time, they could be managers of other new players or coaches, so we need to get them out of the system, or they could spoil others in a few years,” one official told the AP.
Sargsyan was hit by a wave of arrests in Belgium in June and is still in custody. He is exposed to organized crime, match fixing, money laundering and counterfeiting allegations. A suspected syndicate banker is also being charged with money laundering and organized crime, and four more are being investigated for illegal gambling and mule hunting.
Because the bets were small, the risk of detection was “almost zero”, but the winnings could be substantial if many bets were placed, an official said.
It is still unclear whether the consortium based in Belgium was involved in another match-fixing and gambling operation involving Armenians enlightened in Spain. The Spanish police announced last week that 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year’s US Open, were tied to the ring.