Five Armenians charged in Belgium over tennis match-fixing

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 said Wednesday, AFP reports.

They were among 13 people held in Belgium on Tuesday as simultaneous raids were carried out 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.

“They were charged with corruption, money laundering, forgery and membership of a criminal organisation.”

The prosecutor’s office identified the five by their first names and last initials: Grigor S., 27, Artur Y., 30, Lendrush H., 30, Jirair I., 54, and Hayg S., 34.

The judge ordered the further detention of the five Armenians and the release of the eight other people, following questioning, the office said in a statement.

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.

Belgian prosecutors said the matches were on the low-level Futures and Challenger circuits, away from the gaze of television coverage and where meagre prize money leaves players susceptible to backhanders.

Prosecutors said Tuesday the probe showed the criminal network worked to bribe professional tennis players to fix matches and fraudulently boost the winnings of bettors who knew.

They said the suspects, usually jobless with financial problems, 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, adding organisers of fixed matches generate considerable cash.

It added that Belgian police seized 250,000 euros in the raids as well as documents for analysis.

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