Israeli media suggest "unpaid debts" were behind a thwarted alleged assassination plot in Cyprus, pointing to a billionaire in the gambling business who left the island after authorities warned an Azeri-Russian seeking him out as a suspected hit man.
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According to The Times of Israel, 49-year-old billionaire Teddy Sagi from Israel was a target of an assassination plot in Cyprus “due to debts he owes to Russian business partners.”
Sagi was identified on Sunday as the man who fled the island last month after being warned by authorities that an Azeri man with a Russian passport had traveled to Cyprus to seek him out along with four other business partners, all said to be Israeli nationals.
On Monday, Cyprus Police Chief Stelios Papatheodorou said he expected a “positive outcome” in the case.
The latest information contradicts stories about the suspect taking part in a terrorism plot for Iran against Israelis
“I think at the end of the day, we will have a positive outcome in this case,” Papatheodorou said.
Last week Cypriot media reported that the 38-year-old suspect, who is in remanded custody in Nicosia, had traveled to Cyprus for an alleged assassination plot or gunpoint extortion where a handful of businessmen living and working in the capital were the main targets.
Details during the remand hearing were not made publicly available, with reports saying state prosecutors convinced a Nicosia judge to order a closed session, citing public safety and national security concerns.
But Israeli media on Sunday said the target was Sagi, a well known businessman who founded the gambling software company Playtech and also owns Camden Market in London.
Sagi, who is thought to have a Cypriot passport through his investments on the island, reportedly left the island immediately after authorities had tipped him off. The businessman is worth $5.6 billion according to Forbes, while Israeli media say he is one of the richest people in his native country.
Iran links refuted
But the latest information contradicts stories in Greek Cypriot media, when reports last week cited an Israeli media outlet that said the suspect was taking part in a terrorism plot and carrying out paid work for Iran.
Teddy Sagi Group acknowledged Israelis were targeted in Cyprus in connection with the alleged incident but called it an “Iranian terror attempt,” according to The Jerusalem Post.
But the company rejected reports that Sagi was a target.
"It is unfortunate that it is so easy to publish false information and damage someone's name," the Group stated.
Reports said police investigators in Cyprus were still searching for the suspect’s accomplices in the alleged plot. But local pundits pointed out any additional suspects or persons of interest may have got wind of the situation early on due to media attention.
Additional media said Cypriot investigators may have in their possession confiscated documents that could shed light on the purpose of the suspect’s trip, but those reports could not be confirmed.
The suspect has purportedly not been cooperating with investigators, according to local media.
But Papatheodorou said police had a solid case, while clarifying all scenarios were being investigated.
“It’s not a matter of cooperating, evidence is being collected so that offenses can be proven in a court of law,” the chief said.