Spanish tennis players banned for match-fixing

The ITIA worked on an investigation with the betting industry and Spanish police.
The ITIA worked on an investigation with the betting industry and Spanish police.

The ITIA has confirmed long-term bans for six Spanish tennis players after criminal convictions.

Belgium.- The International Tennis Integrity Agency (ITIA) has confirmed that six Spanish tennis players have been banned from the sport after they were convicted of criminal charges relating to match-fixing.

The players were convicted in Spain as part of a wider case involving organised crime, which continues.

The six players, Marc Fornell Mestres (highest ATP ranking of 236), Jorge Marse Vidri (highest ATP ranking 562) and unranked players Carlos Ortega, Jaime Ortega, Marcos Torralbo and Pedro Bernabe Franco all pleaded guilty to corruption charges in Spain, resulting in criminal convictions. The players were all given two-year suspended prison sentences, as well as a fine.

Now the criminal cases are complete, the ITIA has been able to sanction the players and has imposed both long bans and financial penalties. The details are:

  • Marc Fornell Mestres is banned from tennis for 22 years and six months, and fined $250,000 – with $200,000 suspended
  • Jorge Marse Vidri is banned from tennis for 15 years, and fined $15,000 – with $5,000 suspended
  • Carlos Ortega is banned from tennis for 15 years, and fined $150,000 – with $140,000 suspended
  • Jaime Ortega is banned from tennis for 7 years and six months, and fined $100,000 – with $90,000 suspended
  • Marcos Tarralbo is banned from tennis for 15 years, and fined $100,000 – with $85,000 suspended
  • Pedro Bernabe Franco is banned from tennis for 15 years, and fined $100,000 – with $75,000 suspended

The sanctions mean that the players are prohibited from playing in or attending any tennis event authorised or sanctioned by any international tennis governing body or national association for the length of their bans. They are also unable to coach in the professional game.

ITIA chair Jennie Price said: “The conclusion of this long-term investigation is an important moment for tennis in its fight against corruption.

“Whilst we take no pleasure in seeing six individuals receive criminal convictions and bans, the message is clear: match fixing can lead to a jail sentence and can end your career in tennis. It also serves as a warning that organised crime is targeting sport, and governments and law enforcement agencies, as well as anti-corruption bodies in sport, need to take that threat seriously.”

The verdicts mark the end of a five-year process which involved co-operation between the ITIA (previously the Tennis Integrity Unit), Spanish law enforcement and the betting industry, through the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA).

ITIA CEO Jonny Gray said: “This is one of the most significant infiltrations of tennis by organised crime that we have seen. We welcome the involvement of law enforcement agencies and the prosecution of entire criminal networks, not just the players involved. This ruling sends a strong message that match fixing is a crime which can see criminal convictions.” 

He added: “I must pay tribute to our investigations, intelligence and legal teams who have worked tirelessly over the last five years or so to bring this case to its conclusion. We also had excellent co-operation between the ITIA and Spanish law enforcement agencies, as well as the unswerving support of the tennis bodies. Finally, we are hugely grateful to the betting industry for their evidence, leading to these convictions.”

Bogajo Fernandez receives ban

Meanwhile, the ITIA has confirmed that another Spanish tennis player, Fernando Bogajo Fernandez, has received a one year and 10 months ban after admitting offences related to the fixing of a match in 2018.

In addition, the player has been fined $3,000 with an additional $5,000 suspended on the basis that he commits no further breaches of the Tennis Anti-Corruption Program (TACP) rules.

The case was dealt with under the 2022 TACP “Proposal for Disposition” framework. This allows for a sanction to be handed down from the ITIA to the player upon admission of guilt, without the need for a hearing.

Bogajo Fernandez had a highest ATP ranking of 901 and admitted to taking money for not producing his best efforts in a match in 2018 and failing to report the approach. As a result of being provisionally suspended since December 2019, he is able to resume his involvement in tennis immediately.

The ITIA is an independent body established by the International Governing Bodies of Tennis to promote, encourage, enhance and safeguard the integrity of professional tennis worldwide.

In 2021, the International Betting Integrity Association reported a drop in the number of betting alerts it recorded, down to 239 from 270 in 2020.

The IBIA noted that this followed a “consistent” trend in recent years. The average number of annual betting alerts between 2018 and 2020 was 240. Meanwhile, 11 sporting or criminal sanctions were issued as a result of IBIA alerts. 

See also: GLMS sent 300 suspicious betting alerts in Q1

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