Five Armenians Charged In Belgium In Tennis Match-Fixing Scheme
Five Armenians have been charged in Belgium with corruption, money laundering, and other crimes as part of an international investigation into match-fixing in tennis, prosecutors say.
The Armenians, whose full names were not given, were among 13 people held in Belgium as simultaneous raids were carried out on June 5 in the United States, Germany, France, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and the Netherlands.
An investigating judge in Belgium then issued a formal arrest warrant for five people, "all of Armenian nationality," the federal prosecutor's office said in a statement on June 6. "They were charged with corruption, money laundering, forgery, and membership of a criminal organization."
The raids were part of an international probe into an Armenian-Belgian criminal network suspected of bribing players to throw games over the last four years.
Prosecut ors said the criminal network worked to bribe professional tennis players to fix matches and fraudulently boost the winnings of bettors who knew.
The judge ordered the detention of the five Armenians and the release of eight other people, following questioning, the prosecutor's office said.
Belgian prosecutors said the charges did not involve high-level matches that garner television coverage, but rather involved low-level Futures and Challenger circuit matches, where meager prize money leaves players susceptible to scammers.
They said the suspects were usually jobless with financial problems and would receive money to bet on matches in lower-division tournaments where prize money was around $5,000 to $15,000.
They said players in such tournaments are easier to corrupt because the matches are not filmed.
Belgian authorities, who were first alerted to suspicious betting activity in 2015, said the criminal network "would not shrink from vio lence."
It also used its contacts to move large sums of money abroad anonymously, they said.