efe-epaMadrid

Spanish authorities arrested 83 people, including 28 professional tennis players, suspected of being involved in a bribery and match-fixing scheme linked to an Armenian organized crime gang, Spain's police and Europol said Thursday.

Authorities launched the operation, codenamed Bitures, in 2017 when the Tennis Integrity Unit, an anti-corruption body, flagged up irregular activities in the ITF Futures and Challengers tournaments. One of the suspects participated in the last US Open.

"The suspects bribed professional players to guarantee predetermined results and used the identities of thousands of citizens to bet on the pre-arranged games," Europol, the European Union's law enforcement agency, which supported the Spanish operations, said.

"Once they bribed the players, the Armenian network members attended the matches to ensure that the tennis players complied with what was previously agreed, and gave orders to other members of the group to go ahead with the bets placed at national and international level," it added.

Spain's semi-militarized Civil Guard in October raided 11 properties, where they seized 167,000 euros ($192,646) in cash, as well as a shotgun, credit cards, luxury vehicles and documents connected to the case. Authorities froze the assets of 42 bank accounts, the force said.

"They would rig matches in order to place multiple and simultaneous bets on a national and international level," the Civil Guard said in a statement.

The investigation was coordinated by Spain's National Court, the statement said.