Attorney-general Costas Clerides has ordered a police investigation into betting giant Opap after it refused to hand over its accounts to the state treasurer without her signing a confidentiality agreement first, the House finance committee heard on Monday.
MPs heard that the treasurer was told by Opap that she had to sign a confidentiality agreement before being allowed to audit the company’s books.
The treasurer sought the advice of the attorney-general who told her not to sign such an agreement. Opap then refused to open its books prompting Clerides to launch a police investigation.
The revelation was made during discussion of a bill reforming the legal framework governing games of chance so that it is in line with EU law.
To date, the operation of Opap in Cyprus is regulated by a bilateral agreement between Greece and Cyprus.
The once state-run betting giant – founded in Greece in 1958 – turned into a joint stock company in 1999, and in 2013 the cash-strapped Greek state sold the majority of stocks to Emma Delta Hellenic Holding Limited, a Greek-Czech group.
Based on the agreement, Opap is the only company allowed to run lottery games on the island.
Critics argue that since the Greek state is no longer a shareholder, Opap’s special status should be abolished.
Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides previously said that based on its turnover, Opap should be paying Cyprus some €35 million instead of the current €10m.
Michaelides had revealed that up until the year 2013 the state’s revenues from Opap had averaged some €10m a year but during the same period the company’s gross receipts shot up from under €50m to nearly €200m.
Michaelides said Cyprus loses €2m for every month that the current deal was in place.
“We do not feel comfortable with the current state of affairs, to grant the right to one provider without an open competition,” he told the committee. “What is most important is the state’s share. If it is obvious that the public interest is served with a direct assignment, then we agree.”