A gang of match-fixers who used satellites to intercept live streams of sports games before they reached betting houses have been arrested in Spain.
A novel, technology-based “modus operandi” primarily targeted the Bundesliga, a German soccer league, and its counterparts in Asia and South America, according to Europol, the EU’s police agency.
The criminal network, composed of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals operating from Spain, used satellites and other, less sophisticated, systems to capture the live feeds of competitions before the signal could reach the betting houses.
“This allowed the network to bet safely and perpetrate the fraud, thanks to this knowledge of the outcome of the matches,” Europol said.
In addition to soccer leagues, criminals also targeted the UEFA Nations League, the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and the ATP and ITF tennis tournaments. To avoid suspicion, they would place their bets in the names of other people, who also collected the wins on their behalf.
“Additionally, the suspects corrupted a trader for a major betting house to secure the successful validation of the bets,” Europol said.
Overall, 23 suspects, including the gang’s ringleader, were arrested after the Europol-backed investigation that involved the Spanish and Romanian police, Spanish tax authorities, and Interpol.
The group’s activities have been tracked since 2020, when police detected a number of suspicious online bets on international table tennis tournaments. In addition to using technology to commit fraud, the network also resorted to conventional match-fixing methods.
“The suspects targeted competitions mainly outside of Spain, while the leader of the organization corrupted athletes playing for several football teams in Romania,” Europol said. The scheme also involved athletes in Bulgaria.
According to Europol, the suspects had close ties to other criminal groups across Europe and shared information with other fixers.
As part of the operation, police raided four houses and seized two properties, three luxury vehicles, two large satellite dishes with signal receivers, 47 bank accounts, 80 phones, cash, and €13,000 in counterfeit banknotes.
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