ITF President David Haggerty, Tennis Integrity Board Chairman Philip Brook and ATP Chairperson Chris Kermode attended a press conference to fight match fixing at the Australian Open 2016. (Getty)
PARIS (AP) – The crooked tennis players knew him as a "maestro". For European investigators, the Belgian-based Armenian is the alleged leader of an organized gambling consortium suspected of repairing hundreds of games and paying out over 100 players from across Europe.
How Roger Federer and other stars topped tennis compete at the Australian Open. Players far below in the food chain are being questioned by the police in France this week on suspicions of playing games for Grigor Sargsyan, the 28-year-old maestro, investigators said. Sargsyan is being held in a Belgian prison.
After months of digging by police officers across Europe, a massive match-fixing program was organized via encrypted news and dozens of low-ranked players in small, low-stakes tournaments involved in prize money. The police say Sargsyan hired mules hired people for a few dollars to place bets on the syndicate that were small enough to slip under the gambling watcher's radar. They were not allowed details in public Speakers said four French players were in police custody on Wednesday and at least one of them told investigators he had set about two dozen games for Sargsyan.
They called the players Jules Okala (21
A dozen It is expected that more French players will be interviewed in the coming weeks. An investigator said France was one of the syndicate's hardest hit countries, targeting lower-level pro tournaments. Okala and Lescure were detained prior to their participation in a modest tournament in Bressuire, western France, which offers prize money totaling $ 15,000.
The investigators also interviewed players in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Slovakia. and Bulgaria, and try to interview other players, including players and managers, in the United States, Chile and Egypt.
In total, more than 100 players are suspected of having worked with the syndicate, to edit games, sets or games. Swap for payments of 500 to 3,000 euros (570 to 3,400 US dollars).
"We have the impression that it is very commonplace," one official told The Associated Press. It is believed that several hundred games were fixed.
Investigators fear that the players employed by the Syndicate could involve others in the system and infect larger tournaments if they climb higher in the rankings.
They could be managers of other new players or trainers, so we need to get them out of the system, or they could ruin others in a few years, "an Associated Press official said.
Sargsyan was detained in a jail A wave of arrests in Belgium last June and organized crime, match-fixing, money laundering and counterfeiting charges A syndicated banker is also facing money laundering and organized crime charges, while four others are being investigated for illegal gambling and mule searches that they made modest bets on the syndicate for games he had designated.  Since bets were small, the risk of detection was "almost zero," but a win could still be substantial if many bets were placed.
Still It is unclear whether the Belgian consortium with another ve Rulgen was match-fixing and gambling, involving Armenians, was discovered in Spain. The Spanish police announced last week that 28 professional tennis players, including one who participated in last year's US Open, are associated with this ring and can be bribed to determine the results the group has has set fake identities.