MADRID (Reuters) - The Spanish Civil Guard has made widespread arrests following an investigation into tennis match-fixing by an organised Armenian criminal gang, the European Union's Europol agency said on Thursday.
Eleven house searches were carried out in Spain and 167,000 euros in cash were seized, along with a shotgun, more than 50 electronic devices, credit cards, five luxury vehicles and documentation related to the case. Forty-two bank accounts and their balances have been frozen.
The Civil Guard said in a statement 15 people had been arrested, including the leaders of the criminal organisation, while a further 68 people have been investigated.
Of the 83 people implicated in the case, 28 were professional tennis players, playing in the ITF Futures and Challenger categories, and one whose identity was not revealed competed in the 2018 U.S. Open.
"Our officers have proved the group had been operating since February 2017 and estimate that they had earned millions of euros through the operation," added the Civil Guard's statement.
News of the arrests came a day after the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) revealed that in 2018 more tennis players were disciplined for violations of anti-corruption rules than in any other year since the body's creation.
Twenty-one individuals broke anti-corruption rules with the majority sanctioned for match-fixing or betting offences, while eight lifetime bans were imposed, most notably to Italian former world number 49 Daniele Bracciali for match-fixing and facilitating betting.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips and Richard Martin, editing by Gareth Jones and Ed Osmond)