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Samson Martirosyan

Belgian-Armenian Gets Five Years for Global Tennis Match-Fixing; Syndicate’s No. 2 Has Ties to Armenia’s Football League

Grigor Sargsyan, who grew up in an impoverished family that emigrated from Armenia to Belgium in 1999, bribed dozens of professional tennis players across five continents and placed bets on bookmaking websites.

Nicknamed “The Maestro”, he was sentenced to five years in June 2023 for leading a tennis match-fixing syndicate that netted him millions. Twenty-seven members of the syndicate also went on trial.

The Washington Post first covered the story in an article written by Kevin Sieff, describing how Sargsyan built his syndicate in the span of two decades. Hetq followed up with an article on Sept. 8, 2023.

Hetq has identified Armenian citizen Andranik Martirosyan as Sargsyan’s right-hand man who placed bets for him. Martirosyan is on good terms with the founder and director of the West Armenia football club that competes in Armenia’s Premier League.

The founder of West Armenia is Vahe Martirosyan, the cousin of Andranik Martirosyan, and the director of the club is the father of Andranik Martirosyan, Sargis Martirosyan.

Law enforcement agencies in Belgium and other European countries have been investigating Sargsyan's syndicate for several years and the case reached the Court of First Instance of East Flanders, Belgium.

According to the court case, Andranik Martirosyan was the "financial manager" of the criminal group and helped Sargsyan manage the distribution of bribes.

Sargsyan and Martirosyan communicated through Whatsapp, Viber and Telegram apps. Law enforcement officers got access to the correspondence of the members of the syndicate, including Sargsyan and Martirosyan.

Prosecution lawyers proved that, on the instructions of Grigor Sargsyan, Andranik Martirosyan sent bribes to the bribed tennis players through Western Union, Money Gram, Skrill and Neteller.

It was also proven that from June 2016 to March 2018, 1.3 million euros were withdrawn from the Skrill account under Martirosyan's management, and around 7 million euros were sent as bribes to more than 1,600 accounts.

From June 2016 to November 2017, more than US$640,000 was received in the same account, of which 170,000 was cashed, and 480,000 were sent to 125 different accounts.

The prosecution proved that in total Martirosyan received 8.3 million euros and $642,000 from the illegal activities of the syndicate. Only the head of the syndicate, Sargsyan, received more money than him.

Martirosyan was found guilty under a number of articles of the Belgian law, which mainly refer to fraud, deception, illegal activity in a criminal group and falsification of documents.

Andranik Martirosyan was not interrogated and was not present at any court session and, in absentia, the court sentenced him to three years in prison. The verdict also includes a decision to confiscate the aforementioned 8.3 million euros and $642K from Martirosyan.

Martirosyan participated in the operations of Sargsyan's criminal group remotely from Armenia.

A Hetq colleague journalist in Belgium, who helped in the implementation of our investigation, sent requests to Belgian law enforcement agencies, asking them if they are going to launch an international search for Andranik Martirosyan.

The police did not give any clear answer to our colleague; neither confirming nor denying such an intention. Hetq tried to find out from the Armenia’s Prosecutor General Office (PGO) whether they received any demands from Belgian law enforcement agencies regarding Martirosyan. The PGO instructed us to apply to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry of Justice informed us that they do not provide any information based on the law on the protection of personal data.The Ministry of Internal Affairs has not yet responded to our inquiry.

Our colleague in Belgium also talked with Dimitri Margeri, the lawyer representing Sargsyan,. The lawyer said that he considers his work finished and did not comment on Martirosyan's role in the syndicate.

Our partner found out that a complaint has been received at the Belgian Court of Appeasl. It’s likely that the eight persons sentenced to prison in the same case are trying to challenge the verdict.

Martirosyan's Criminal Record

It is noteworthy that cousins Andranik and Vahe Martirosyan have a joint criminal record.

In June 2014, they started a fight in Yerevan’s Caliente night club. Andranik Martirosyan stabbed one person, and Vahe Martirosyan broke the temple of another person with a baseball bat. The reason, according to the court case, was that a group of men celebrating a birthday poured a few drops of champagne on Vahe Martirosyan.

In January 2015, both Vahe Martirosyan and Andranik Martirosyan were sentenced to six years in prison for intentionally causing serious harm to health and for hooliganism.

Comparing the years of Andranik Martirosyan's stay in prison and the years of activity of the syndicate operating in Belgium, it can be concluded that Martirosyan helped Sargsyan remotely from prison.

Washington Post reporter Sieff, who covered the court case of Sargsyan's syndicate and interviewed him, also testifies to this. While covering the story, Sieff also tried to talk to Andranik Martirosyan in Yerevan, but the latter refused to answer his questions.

“No Comment” to Hetq Questions

Andranik Martirosyan is actively involved in the management of West Armenia.

On June 28, 2022, on behalf of West Armenia, Martirosyan attended the 22nd regular meeting of the Football Federation of Armenia (FFA) as a member of the FFA and participated in decision-making by voting.

Martirosyan often attends games. In June of this year, he was in Tanzania and signed a cooperation agreement with the Tanzanian Simba football club on behalf of West Armenia.

We contacted Vladimir Amirkhanyan, the former director of West Armenia, and asked him to provide Andranik Martirosyan's phone number to get a comment from him.

Amirkhanyan said that Andranik Martirosyan has nothing to do with the club. When asked how Martirosyan sign a contract in Tanzania on behalf of the club, Amirkhanyan avoided giving a clear answer and said that he did not know, he had not been to the country.

We insisted that it’s in the interest of Andranik Martirosyan or his father, Sargis Martirosyan, to comment before publishing the article. Amirkhanyan called and said that they did not find it appropriate to answer any questions, then added that the club was sold, there is another owner. He didn’t mention the name of the new owner. It should be noted that in Armenia’s State Register of Legal Entities there is no mention of the change of the owner of the club yet.

Of note is that just one day before the publication of our article Sargis Martirosyan gave an interview to the sports section of news.am, commenting on the club's position on the upcoming elections of the FFA president.

When we informed Amirkhanyan about this interview, he said that he could not say anything, neither Andranik nor Sargis wanted to answer any questions.

West Armenia Match Statistics

While working on the story, Hetq communicated with various representatives of the football community. They say West Armenia has already managed to distinguish itself with several problematic games during its performance in Armenia’s Premier League.

Although there is no hard evidence, and it is usually difficult to prove, there are rumors that the club is strangely losing some games and conceding goals, with some in the community hinting at match-fixing.

We have analyzed the games of Armenia’s Premier League, including the 18th round, conceded goals and minutes of the teams. The data shows an interesting picture.

West Armenia conceded the most goals out of ten team 46 goals.

West Armenia also leads the league for conceded goals in overtime (45+, 90+) in the first and second half with ten goals.

It’s notable that West Armenia missed a lot of goals near the end of the game, after the 80th minute.

Thus, we have counted the percentage of the goals conceded in the 80th to 90+ minutes. Here too, West Armenia ranks first with 32.6%. For other teams, the same indicator varies around 23%.  

The Van-West Armenia game was the focus of a Russian-language blog covering possible match-fixing. After the first half, West Armenia was winning the away match with a score of 1-0, thanks to a penalty shot. According to the blogger, after the first half, the betting scanner noticed several big bets on Van winning by two or more goals. The game ended with Van’s win by a score of 4-1. Van scored two goals in the added minute.

Is there a need to check whether the "problematic" matches of West Armenia were “decided” in advance. Here, the FFA can play a big role.

Bruno Struys, from Die Morgen, participated in the investigation from Belgium.
Data visualization: Aren Nazaryan
Top photo design: Samson Martirosyan

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