Playtech Founder Teddy Sagi Targeted in Assassination Attempt, Israel Blames Iran

Posted on: October 4, 2021, 07:30h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2021, 04:40h.

Billionaire Playtech founder Teddy Sagi has escaped an assassination attempt in Cyprus, according to police in the Mediterranean nation.

Teddy Sagi
Close shave: Teddy Sagi, pictured, founded Playtech in 1999 and is one of Israel’s richest people. (Image: Yossi Zeliger/Israel Hayom)

On Monday, Israel claimed the foiled attack had been a “terrorist incident directed by Iran against Israeli businesspeople living in Cyprus.”

According to Cyprus’ Channel 12 News, citing a police source, Cypriot authorities began investigating the plot several weeks ago following “intelligence from foreign entities.” Around a week and a half ago, they discovered the target was Sagi. They alerted the businessman, who immediately fled the country.

Sagi founded online gaming software developer Playtech in 1999, which grew to become the world’s largest supplier and licenser of software to the industry.

From 2014 to 2018, Sagi gradually sold off his shares to pursue real-estate interests and other projects and began spending more time in Cyprus. In London, he owns parts of the city’s Holborn and Camden districts, including Camden Market. Forbes estimates his fortune at $5.6 billion, which would make him Israel’s fourth-richest citizen.

Suspect Caught

Authorities have confirmed they arrested the suspected would-be assassin last Monday. That’s after he crossed the Agios Dhometios checkpoint in Nicosia from the Turkish-controlled part of the country.

The man is believed to be an Azerbaijani citizen traveling on a Russian passport. Police said he was carrying “a pistol and cartridges.” Some news reports said the pistol had a silencer. Authorities said he had been in Cyprus for almost three weeks before he was arrested, and had crossed the border several times, sometimes on a scooter to avoid checkpoints.

Official announcements have been few and short on details. Meanwhile, Cypriot media is feasting on multiple, sometimes contradictory leaks.

ANT1 claimed authorities believe the Iranians had instructed several mercenaries to kill or abduct an Israeli businessman based in Cyprus, and that there are four additional intended targets. Another claimed the suspect had a “kill list” when he was detained.

However, some media outlets said Sunday police believe the plot bears the hallmarks of organized crime, and are investigating whether a Russian Mafia organization might be involved. They were working on the theory the failed assassination could have been related to a business dispute.

Shadow War

On Monday, Matan Sidi, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, denied these reports, pointing the finger squarely at Iran.

Israel and Iran are engaged in a kind of shadow war, which may have recently escalated. In late July, Iran is believed to have attacked an oil tanker in the Gulf of Oman that was operated by a company owned by Israeli businessman Eyal Ofer. Iranian-owned media stated that the attack was a response to Israeli airstrikes in Syria.