Seven Players Due In Court For Belgian Tennis Match-Fixing T...| MENAFN.COM

Wednesday, 29 March 2023 12:33 GMT

Seven Players Due In Court For Belgian Tennis Match-Fixing Trial

(MENAFN- The Peninsula) AFP

Brussels: Seven Belgian tennis players, including a former member of the country's Davis Cup team, go on trial on Friday in Belgium for their roles in a match-fixing scandal that broke in 2018.

In total, 28 people will be in court in Oudenaarde in a hearing expected to last one day.

Among the defendants is the suspected ringleader, Grigor Sargsyan, a 32-year-old Armenian arrested in Brussels in June 2018.

The prosecution says he used 'an international network of 181 players' in 'manipulating matches.'

The fraud targeted lower-level professional competitions, in particular Futures tournaments, which ran up to 2018, where cameras were generally absent.

The prosecution says players were approached to lose a match, set or game and deliver a pre-determined outcome for a fee.

At the same time, bets were placed by accomplices obeying the orders of Sargsyan, nicknamed 'Maestro'.

The case involves 'at least 375 matches'. The investigation by Belgian police stemmed from reports by the Belgian gambling regulator dating back to 2015.

The case also sparked an investigation in France, where several players were arrested in 2019.

At the time, a French police source told AFP: 'These are players who have come close to an ATP pro career but who today are struggling to make ends meet.'

'The bribes go up to 3,000 euros,' said the source, adding that at the smaller tournaments the winners purse can be only 2,000 euros.

While a trial has yet to take place in France, two French players, Jules Okala and Mick Lescure, were banned for life, each for multiple offences, by the International tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) in December.

Three Belgian players were provisionally suspended by ITIA in May 2021.

The French pair and the seven Belgians all spent their careers in the depths of the ATP rankings, although one of the Belgians, Arthur De Greef, whose ranking peaked at 113, represented his country in the Davis Cup, most recently in 2019.

Okala, now 25, reached 338 in the world, and Lescure, 29 years old, 487.

At the time of the original arrests, Eric Van Duyse, a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor's office, said the case involved 'a highly structured gang from Eastern Europe, which acts from Belgium and specialises in tennis matches'.

He said 'they focused on low-stakes games, where it's easier to bribe and cheat', he added.

Van Duyse said the inquiry had spread across seven countries: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, the United States and Belgium.


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