Two more attacks on OPAP
LOTTERY operators OPAP central offices, along with another outlet in Nicosia were hit yesterday during the early hours in the wake of a spate of arson attacks on the gaming company in the last two weeks.
Police said the latest attacks took place between 3.15am and 4am. In the first attack shots were fired at the OPAP central offices on Limassol Avenue near police headquarters.
The second was an arson attack on an outlet on Prodromos Avenue, which caused considerable damage.
Later yesterday a 45-year-old man from Nicosia was arrested but he was released due to lack of evidence, police said.
According to police spokesman Andreas Angelides, up till now there have been two attacks in Limassol, two in Nicosia and three attempted arsons - two in Limassol and one in Nicosia.
In the latest one, Angelides said at 3.15am several people in a saloon car fired five shots at the OPAP central offices. An hour later the arson was reported.
“Based on evidence and an evaluation of information there is a specific direction to the investigations,” said Angelides.
Concerns have been raised that the attacks are connected to a gambling bill currently being discussed in parliament. The bill excludes OPAP because the company operates under a bilateral agreement between the governments of Greece – its base – and Cyprus. Also, the games it offers are not played directly by the player on the internet as is the case with others which the bill seeks to regulate.
OPAP offers games of chance such as Lotto, Proto, Joker and Kino, along with football betting.
“We realise the seriousness of the case and that it’s not by chance,” said Angelides, adding that the police were troubled by the attacks and they had met with OPAP to discuss it.
OPAP Cyprus general director Michalis Himonas seemed mystified as to why they were being targeted: “We don’t know what’s happening either….the bill of course has nothing to do with OPAP and we are not involved in what the bill intends to do.”
Marios Makrides, head of the Cyprus OPAP agents, described what has been happening to OPAP outlets over the last few weeks as ‘unfair’ as well as ‘terrorising those who have suffered and all the others that sleep with the fear’ of being hit.
“I believe that all of my colleagues who have been harmed don’t have any differences with anyone,” said Makrides.
We operate legally and why they’re doing this to us and for what reason these things are happening in general is a mystery to us, he added.
Justice Minister Loucas Louca said yesterday that measures have been taken to deal with the recent attacks on the OPAP outlets. He said that agents were also advised to protect themselves (such as the installation of security systems).
Loucas would not comment on the motives but said: “All of the evidence is being evaluated but only when we’re sure will we say that the attacks happened for this reason,” he said.
(Source: Cyprus Mail)
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