Five years in prison required for the alleged leader of a match-fixing system in tennis
It was time for a midday beer or a bike ride on the mountains of…
It was time for a midday beer or a bike ride on the mountains of Flanders, around Oudenaarde. The president of the court tried everything with two questions offered to “Maestro”, the alleged leader of a Belgian-Armenian network of corrupters of penniless tennis players.
“ – You no longer dispute the facts except those in A1 (head of network, editor’s note)?
-I don’t recognize anything.
– All these people who paraded (players or bettors) for two days, have nothing to do with you?
-I do not know them. »
Maestro, alias Grigor Sargsyan, kept his right to silence until the end. He will tell later because he likes to tell, maybe June 2 between the verdict and the imprisonment. He is preparing to return to the Bruges headquarters or elsewhere to “corruption and money laundering” and probably to “belonging to a criminal organization. » The prosecutor asked for five years in prison (plus 600,000 euros). He would not appeal, in a hurry, it seems, to devote his intelligence and his diplomas to other profits.
More than 8 million euros transferred to an account in Armenia
He did not want to play the part, which he considers flawed, in court. Maybe to protect, maybe to protect, maybe to ***ume. He proclaims himself innocent, he knows himself that this is a facade. The evidence am***ed in particular by the Central Office of Repression and Corruption, is patent. His four phones – one gold, one silver, one white, one black – seized in 2018, they were talkative. “Just because they were found in his home doesn’t mean they belong to him” tries his lawyer Maître Margerit. All the same…
Substantial transfers – 8,229,182.65 euros, joined a single account, in the country that was his, in Armenia. Other flows, via Moneygram or WesterUnion, have abounded the accounts of some hitherto anonymous players. And slews of decrypted messages from Telegram or WhatsApp, and not only in his supposed phones, maintain much more than ambiguities. When the Belgian police arrested in June 2018, Grigor Sargsyan and four Armenian nationals, Omar Salman, a modest Belgian player, unknown to the Notoriety Battalion, panicked in an exchange with a relative: “I’m in deep shit. If I tell you Maestro do you understand? » Similar words from Mike Lescure, 40th French player, skimmer of Futures tournaments where a final victory barely reimburses the costs.
The players had several proposals, as in a catalog
The Flemish investigators did not need to look far to decipher the messages of “Maestro”. “1st, +3d equals 1.2+500” Either lose the first and the 3rd, 1,200 euros and 500 euros. The players had several proposals, to combine as they pleased. They chose, as in a catalog. That’s what the prosecution alleges. It appears that he was not threatening. It was working fine. Except for the day when the team opposite, an alliance of two Russians, had also planned to return a little richer to their isba, probably in business with another arranger… “Maestro” had an appetite for doubles matches .
Arthur De Greff, ex 113th player in the world, the best of the accused and spotted under the pseudonym La Griffe, denies having actually received a message via a Dutch number offering him to lose an obscure unfilmed double “two sets to zero, 1-6 the last set” – which was the score in the round of 16 for the challenger from Meerbusch, Germany. Almost everywhere in Belgium, small hands, alerted by the network, bet from 10 to 25 euros, sometimes directly, sometimes after having lent their papers.
When the price of a room exceeds the prize money
We saw them these hands, for two days, scrolling, scratching their foreheads, turning to lawyers they did not always have. Kircho the student or Adam the mechanic. Not understanding that justice who spoke Dutch and not Armenian, wanted to agglomerate them into a vast network. So, liars or not, little ones no doubt, they shelled the excuses, which no one really recorded, where it was a question of mothers-in-law, verandas, vice of the game, or boss to whom one does not refuse . They will be a little punished, they will be replaced.
Walter Van Steenbrugger, lawyer for cyclist Wout Van Aert and driver Jos Verbeeck, represented three of the seven Belgian players prosecuted. Accustomed to embodied pleadings, he tried to provide elements of context: “You can understand that players let go of doubles when they have lost in singles. » When the price of a room exceeds the prize money. When it is urgent to try to really win elsewhere. And when betting on your own defeat can pay more…
“Maestro” may have exploited a loophole. He was caught, he understood that he was going to be sentenced. He does not necessarily have the feeling of having made a serious mistake. He would almost claim to be Robin Hood, the one who redistributes and ultimately only takes from the very rich, from a system where the bookmakers win in the end.