Probe into OPAP wins nets big fish

A financial crimes squad investigation into money launderers legitimizing funds through lottery operator OPAP has found that a woman closely connected to a high-ranking OPAP business partner has won more than 7 million euros. Sources told Kathimerini yesterday that Stamatina Marmara, the wife of Giorgos Salonikis, had collected 7.58 million euros by producing a number of winning tickets issued from tens of different OPAP agencies. OPAP officials considered Marmara’s streak of luck unusual and have referred the issue to crime squad investigators. Salonikis has a close professional relationship with Socrates Kokkalis, the chairman and main shareholder in Intralot, which supplies OPAP with software and runs its Pame Stoichima betting game. Salonikis has also served as vice president of the Olympiakos basketball club and held a position on the board of Olympiakos soccer club, both of which are presided over by Kokkalis. Salonikis was also on the board of Intralot in the past. The financial crimes squad launched an investigation last year after claims that businessman Alexandros Angelopoulos, who was arrested on drug smuggling charges, had been using betting games to launder money. The probe, sources said, revealed up to 10 people who had cashed in an unusually high amount of winning coupons from all over the country. The results of the investigation have now been passed to judicial authorities. OPAP President Sotiris Kostakos said yesterday that when winners appear with tickets from different parts of Greece, the financial crimes squad is notified and the prosecutor is also filled in on the situation. Criminals who wish to legitimize their funds are known to approach lottery winners and offer to buy their winning tickets at a premium price. Once they have the winning ticket in their possession the underworld figures can then cash it in and legally show a source of income. In an interview on Skai radio yesterday, Kostakos said that the software system used by the company is considered credible but also admitted that there is room for improvement.