Cypriot authorities believe Iran is not behind a plot to assassinate one or more Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus, despite Jerusalem’s adamant accusations of a planned terror attack, local media reported Wednesday.
Authorities are also said to be convinced the would-be hitman’s target in the plot was not the Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi, but other members of his company, the Philenews site reported.
Sagi had told Channel 12 news on Monday evening that he was never tipped off or warned and decided to leave Cyprus for unrelated reasons. “The headlines sounded very scary, but it had nothing to do with me,” he said. “I didn’t receive any notification to leave.”
Sagi is the founder of the gambling software company Playtech, which has offices in Nicosia.
Some sources had claimed that the foiled attack was an assassination attempt against Sagi linked to his business dealings. But the Israeli government on Monday blamed “Iranian terror” for last week’s planned attack, and said Sagi was targeted only because he was an Israeli businessman.
The alleged hired killer of Azerbaijani origin, who arrived in Cyprus on a flight from Russia using a Russian passport, had not been cooperating with police investigators. But on Tuesday he showed them two places in Ayia Napa where he had rented cars, the report said.
Landing in Larnaca on the Cypriot southern side of the island, the suspect was said to have made his way to the city of Paralimni, near the northern, Turkish-controlled part of the island, where he rented a room and two vehicles, reports said.
Citing Cypriot police suspicions, Channel 12 news said that the suspect then traveled back to Larnaca, where he attempted to find Israeli businessmen in the Angumi business district, where most of the island’s Israelis work.
He reportedly crossed the Turkish-Cypriot border back and forth a number of times on a bike.
In Larnaca, the assassin reportedly staked out an office complex known to be the workplace of multiple Israelis. The Channel 12 report said he was caught on security cameras snooping around the neighborhood, evidence that was eventually used to apprehend him.
Days later, he was arrested in Nicosia by Cypriot police from the Anti-Terrorism Unit with a gun and silencer on him that he had obtained while in Cyprus, according to media reports.