LONDON (Reuters) - More than two dozen players who feature in evidence collected from gamblers should be investigated for possible links to betting rings, an Italian prosecutor has told the BBC and BuzzFeed News.
Roberto di Martino said he had collected internet chat logs and telephone conversations between players and gamblers as part of a two-year probe into a suspected match-fixing ring involving Italian players.
Italian duo Potito Starace and Daniele Bracciali have already been charged. Both deny any wrongdoing and will appear in court in May.
Di Martino said the Tennis Integrity Unit (TIU) should probe the other players for possible betting links.
“Surely if these foreign players were Italian, they would certainly have been at least questioned?,” Di Martino said.
“They should have provided some explanations.”
The TIU responded by saying it “strongly refutes” any suggestion made by the prosecutor in Cremona, Italy, that it has ignored evidence of match-fixing in tennis.
“The TIU had been endeavoring to obtain the evidence required to substantiate allegations made against Italian players Daniele Bracciali and Potito Starace from the prosecutor’s office since October 2014,” it added.
“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
The TIU said that information received from the public prosecutor was being assessed, verified and, where appropriate, investigated.
Tennis is already reeling from revelations in a report by the BBC and BuzzFeed in January that 16 players who have been ranked in the top 50 had been repeatedly flagged to the TIU over concerns they had thrown matches. [L3N1510P9]
The allegations were further fueled by former Australian professional Nick Lindahl pleading guilty in January to match-fixing in a minor tournament in 2013. [L3N1591FB]
Di Martino suspected more than 30 matches, including some at Wimbledon and the French Open, may have been corrupted.
“Interestingly, they are not so-called second-tier tennis players, but also players of some importance,” he said.
TIU said it had requested that if BuzzFeed and the BBC believe they have hard evidence of corruption, they should make it immediately available.
“Tennis welcomes all and any new evidence that can assist the TIU in its work,” it added.
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi and Pritha Sarkar in London, editing by Ed Osmond