Tennis Integrity Unit rejects Italian prosecutor's claim of cover-up

Prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, during a press conference.
Prosecutor Roberto Di Martino, during a press conference. PHOTO: AFP

Integrity unit hits back at Italian prosecutor, denies it failed to take action against players

LONDON • Tennis authorities say they "strongly refute" claims made by an Italian prosecutor that they have ignored evidence of match-fixing in the sport.

Roberto di Martino, the chief prosecutor in Cremona, had called for more than two dozen top players to be investigated by the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) for possible links to betting rings.

Di Martino told BuzzFeed and the BBC that he had evidence that players were offered between €50,000 (S$76,600) and €300,000 to throw matches.

He also claimed that his files included references to at least 37 players, only eight of whom are Italian and 29 of whom have been ranked in the top 50.

So far two Italian players, Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali, have been accused of conspiring to fix matches and are due to appear in court in May. They both deny charges of conspiracy to commit sporting fraud. However, di Martino has called for others to be scrutinised by the TIU.

But the TIU rejected claims that it had not done enough, and accused di Martino of not helping it despite repeated requests.

In a statement to The Guardian it said: "The Tennis Integrity Unit, supported by the governing bodies of tennis, strongly refutes any suggestion made by the public prosecutor in Cremona, Italy, that evidence of match-fixing in tennis has been ignored by the TIU.

"The TIU had been endeavouring to obtain the evidence required to substantiate allegations made against Italian players Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace from the prosecutor's office.

"The TIU had to engage legal counsel in Italy to obtain the information contained in Mr di Martino's investigation and is now listed as an injured party in the ongoing criminal proceedings."

Di Martino, who had been conducting a two-year inquiry into a suspected match-fixing ring involving Italian tennis players and gamblers, claimed more than 24 non-Italian players had been mentioned by gamblers in recordings of phone calls and Internet chat logs acquired through his investigation.

"Surely if these foreign players were Italian, they would certainly have been at least questioned," Di Martino said.

"Interestingly, they are not so-called second-tier tennis players, but also players of some importance," he added.

The TIU hit back, however, saying: "We have in the past requested, and repeat today, that if BuzzFeed and the BBC believe they have hard evidence of corruption, they make it immediately available.

"Tennis welcomes all and any new evidence that can assist the TIU in its work. The sport has a long-standing and total commitment to preventing betting-related corruption.

"It is a matter of public record that Mr Bracciali and Mr Starace are currently facing criminal proceedings in Italy. The TIU has interviewed both players and, as the case is sub judice, is not in a position to make any further comment on that matter."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'TENNIS COVER-UP CLAIM REJECTED'. Print Edition | Subscribe