Madrid: Spanish police have broken up a tennis match-fixing ring that is alleged to involve nearly 30 professional players, including one who played in the last US Open.
The Guardia Civil said on Thursday that 83 people were implicated in the racket, among them 28 players in the ITF Futures and Challenger categories.
According to the force, those responsible for the alleged fraud were engaged in bribing professional players in order to profit from bets placed on fixed matches.
"Fifteen people have been arrested, among them the heads of the organisation, and another 68 are under investigation," the Guardia Civil said in a statement. "Of those 83, 28 are professional tennis players who have either been detained or investigated - one of whom took part in the last US Open."
The force said the operation had been prompted by complaints made by the international anti-corruption group the Tennis Integrity Unit. Officers focused their investigation on a Spanish player and the network began to unravel.
"A group of Armenian individuals used a professional player who served as the link between them and the other members of the network," the statement said.
"Once the bribe had been paid, the Armenians headed for the match venues to use their overwhelming muscle to make sure that the player kept their end of the deal. They then gave the order for bets to be laid both nationally and internationally."
The Guardia Civil said the scam had been operating since at least February 2017 and could have generated profits running into millions of euros.
Its officers searched 11 addresses in nine Spanish provinces, finding EUR167,000 (GBP151,000) in cash, as well as a handgun, stolen identity documents, jewellery, more than 50 electronic devices and five high-end vehicles.
The investigation had resulted in the freezing of 42 bank accounts and the confiscation of various properties.
"Those currently under arrest ran the money through different accounts before finally transferring it to those under their control, always using false names," said police. "They are suspected of membership of a criminal organisation, corrupting private individuals (in the sporting world), fraud, money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and identity theft."
The Guardia Civil, which carried out the investigation in conjunction with Europol and officials at the Spanish tax office, said that internet betting was a growing phenomenon and criminals who exploited it were priority targets for the force.