The Spanish National Police (Policía Nacional) have arrested 53 individuals who were allegedly serving as “betting mules” for a criminal organisation involved in manipulating sports events.

According to Spanish authorities, the criminal network orchestrated match-fixing schemes in football, tennis, and table tennis in over 20 nations, including Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Russia and Bolivia.

The arrests followed an investigation that took place from 29 January to 1 February, and was supported by Europol, Interpol and the Spanish Tax Agency (Agencia Tributaria), with the 53 suspects arrested in Madrid and Guadalajara.

The suspects reportedly sold their personal information and betting platform account credentials to the criminal network. Using this data, the leaders of the organisation would place large bets on predetermined outcomes, resulting in significant profits by defrauding betting establishments. 

The investigation revealed that the criminal syndicate controlled over 1,500 betting accounts and made approximately €2m in winnings. 

The alleged criminals used advanced technology to manipulate live streams by intercepting satellite signals and capturing the content of feeds, which enabled them to gain access to live signals before the betting houses and place substantial winning bets. 

Additionally, the criminal network devised a sophisticated system to launder the proceeds obtained from gambling activities. The suspects are currently facing charges related to their involvement in a criminal organisation, defrauding gambling operators, and money laundering.

This operation marks the second phase of an investigation initiated in 2020, which had previously resulted in the arrest of 22 individuals, including the leaders of the criminal organisation.

In January, the International Betting Integrity Association (IBIA) reported a decrease in global suspicious alerts as well as an increase in successful sanctions for sports betting violations.

It comes as no surprise that football and tennis were targeted by the criminal network as the IBIA noted that football and tennis were the sports generating the highest number of alerts in 2023, reinforcing the focus of this investigation on these two sports.

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