A criminal network that employed advanced satellite technology to manipulate sports events and defraud bookmakers has been dismantled by a joint effort by law enforcement agencies.
The operation, carried out by the Spanish Police, the Spanish Tax Agency, Europol, and Interpol, resulted in the arrest of 23 individuals, including key members of a major bookmaker. The investigation, which began in 2020, unveiled a syndicate with origins in Romania and Bulgaria.
The gang developed an innovative system that involved intercepting live signals from sports venues around the world using satellite technology. This enabled them to place bets with a delayed signal, giving them an advantage over bookmakers who were unaware of the outcome. The group exploited this method in various sports events, including football leagues in Asia and South America, the UEFA Nations League, Bundesliga, the Qatar 2022 World Cup, and ATP and ITF tennis tournaments.
The leader of the syndicate had corrupted football players in Romania, influencing match outcomes. This insider information was also shared with other match-fixers, expanding the criminal network. To avoid detection, the group used multiple individuals to collect their winnings, creating the illusion of different people cashing in.
A major breakthrough in the investigation came with the arrest of a trader from a reputable bookmaker who colluded with the criminal group and approved the fraudulent online bets.
The operation led to the seizure of various assets, including computer equipment, mobile phones, satellite dishes, signal receivers, a luxury car, €5,000 in cash, and €13,000 in counterfeit notes. Numerous cards and over 200 prepaid SIM cards were also confiscated. In addition, 47 bank accounts and 28 payment gateways were frozen.
The investigation is ongoing, with efforts focused on capturing other members of the syndicate and identifying the athletes involved in the match-fixing.
This case of “satellite technology sports fixing” highlights the ever-evolving methods employed by criminals in the world of sports corruption and serves as a reminder of the lengths they will go for financial gain.