By Violeta Prockyte
The coronavirus lockdown has given rise to football-related betting fraud, including evidence of dubiously staged matches in Ukraine at the end of March with illicit data sold on to bookmakers, who then offer betting markets.
Estimates of bets put on these specific games, sometimes referred to as 'ghost games', go upward of £100,000 ($124,000) and it’s reported bookmakers more than likely paid out winning bets to match-fixers before the fraud was realised.
Four lower league Ukrainian clubs, including Berdyansk, used a Facebook platform to promote a friendly tournament called the Azoz Cup.
BetGenius allegedly supplied data about the matches and bookmakers such as BetFred, BWin and 188bet among others all offered markets until it was revealed the event proved to be fraudulent.
"Midway through a series of Ukrainian football matches last week our integrity and intelligence network raised concerns about four fixtures," said BetGenious in a statement to Gambling Insider. "These games appeared to be scheduled and advertised via official sources as cup fixtures between professional clubs and we employed a local statistician to capture the data from those games. Unfortunately we, along with many of our sportsbook customers, were the victim of fraud." The sports betting platform emphasised that these were not ‘ghost games’, however. "Our match security protocol requires our statisticians to verify the authenticity of fixtures through audio and visual methods, therefore we can confirm that games did indeed take place," the statement continued. "However, we now understand that these games were not played in an official capacity and may have been conducted in a fraudulent manner, likely by a criminal group."
An additional round of matches for the tournament was due to be played on March 27, and a final and third-placed play-off on March 28. But all activity ceased on March 29 and the Facebook site was deleted.
In a statement, the Ukraine FA said the country is still under COVID-19 lockdown and no official games have been permitted, so the matches couldn’t have taken place and were created to defraud betting markets.
However, BetGenius says matches of some capacity did take place, even if not entirely sanctioned. The company insisted it has proof of the games and is ready to work with Ukrainian FA and local authorities to gain clarity on the incident.
Genius Sports, the parent company of BetGenius, is no longer covering the Ukrainian lower league games.