Last week, five Israeli citizens were arrested and are being held in Larnaca, Cyprus, under suspicion of operating an illegal online sports betting operation. While it is legal to operate online sportsbooks in Cyprus, all internet gambling operations in the country must be licensed by the government in order to operate legally. The men have yet to contact the Israeli embassy for support, but the Foreign Ministry is aware of the situation.
The arrests were the result of a police raid on a small apartment in the town of Oroklini, near Larnaca. Police were acting on a warrant. When they entered the apartment, they found the five Israelis living amongst a mass of computers and electronic equipment. An illegal network of eight satellite dishes was also uncovered – these were associated with what appears to be an illegal online sports betting website.
The suspects have denied all charges, but when the police entered the apartment, it was clear to them that the men had tried to destroy evidence against them. According to a spokesperson for the Cypriot police, “The moment the suspects realized that the police were on to them, they tried to hide evidence, they cut the pirate connections and put an end to their activity.”
Cypriot police have not released further details about the bust, but have said that several pieces of evidence have been collected from the apartment. Police say it appears the men were also supplying illegal cable to other Cypriots.
There are dozens of online gambling sites in Cyprus, and the country is home to some of the larger internet casinos and sportsbooks in the world. These gambling sites are operated by foreign companies, and cater to non-Cypriot players. It is not clear whether the sports betting website in question was a local operation or an international operation.