Cyprus Mail

Man found guilty of Larnaca bookie arson

LARNACA criminal court found Andreas Charalambous, aka ‘Arapis’, guilty on Friday of conspiring to commit a felony and arson, charges stemming from the burning down of a betting shop in May last year.

Reading out the court’s decision, Judge Stalo Hadjiyianni, referring to the facts of the case, said that on May 12, 2015, a fire broke out at the Megabet Plus bookmakers at 5.30am, causing about €80,000 worth of damage to the equipment and building.

The blaze was put out by the fire service and investigations concluded that the fire was maliciously set by unknown people who smashed the glass on the aluminium front door of the premises before lighting the fire inside the building having doused it in petrol.

Saddam Qunbus and Mohamed Okla from Syria, who were arrested in connection with the case, later admitted to starting the fire and being paid to do so by rivals of the bookmaker’s owner Lazaros Philippou.

The two Syrians, who were jailed for three years last November, implicated Charalambous saying he was involved in the planning. Charalambous denied the arson charges.

The court decision described the prosecution witnesses as objective and impartial, accepting all their testimony.

The court heard that Charalambous, on the other hand, had tried to overturn the evidence against him through unsworn statements made from the dock.

As for two defence witnesses, the court decision noted they appeared in court to serve the defendant not the truth, describing them as totally unreliable in rejecting their testimony.

In its judgment, the court also stated that the prosecution had proved beyond all reasonable doubt the charges faced by Andreas Charalambous, namely conspiracy to commit a felony and arson, finding the defendant guilty on both charges.

The court set September 6 for the mitigation hearing and gave instructions for the welfare office to prepare a report on Charalambous.

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