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He won the lottery.  Now the clock is ticking to prove your identity and claim it: NPR


A 28-year-old Algerian has won a quarter of a million euros on a lottery scratch card in Belgium. But securing his winnings proved to be a challenge on two continents.

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Reuters


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Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Reuters

He won the lottery.  Now the clock is ticking to prove your identity and claim it: NPR

A 28-year-old Algerian has won a quarter of a million euros on a lottery scratch card in Belgium. But securing his winnings proved to be a challenge on two continents.

Igor Golovniov/SOPA Images/Sipa USA/Reuters

A few weeks ago, Alexander Verstraete’s customer walked into a store in Zeebrugge, Belgium, to buy a lottery scratch card.

“He paid 5 euros and won the ticket. He won 250,000 euros,” Verstraete said.

It’s about $270,000. The Belgium-based lawyer said his client couldn’t believe it, so he asked a friend to check it out. Afterwards, they both went back to the store to check three times, only to confirm that he had suddenly won over a quarter of a million dollars.

And that’s where the problems started.

Verstraete’s client, a 28-year-old Algerian migrant, is undocumented. He wishes to remain anonymous to avoid being targeted by people who disapprove of his undocumented status or by others who may want part of his winnings.

He came to Belgium two months ago with nothing; no papers, no address and no way to prove his identity – which is required by the National Lottery of Belgium.

The Verstraete customer sent a friend with an ID to the National Lottery Authority in Rue Belliard to try to claim the money for him. But it didn’t work. The officials became suspicious and called the authorities.

“The Zeebrugge police knew who the real winner was because there was camera footage from the store,” Verstraete said.

But the photos from the security camera weren’t enough for the unlucky lottery winner. The prosecutor in charge of this case wanted the winner to obtain an official identity card. And so far that has meant contacting family in Algeria as well as the embassy in Belgium.

For now, the lottery ticket is being held by police until the paperwork is in order, and police say they won’t deport him until he gets his money back. The client must also obtain a bank account with his name on it, and a legal address to give to the bank.

To complicate matters further, the ticket expires in a year, giving them 11 months to satisfy the prosecutor’s request. It is a multi-level process in which Verstraete feels confident.

Zeebrugge is a port city off the English Channel and a transit route for migrants trying to reach the UK. After surviving the trip from Algeria, Verstraete said his client wanted to buy a house and a car and settle in once everything was sorted out. His winnings have brought him closer to that dream.

“You might have a one-in-a-million chance of winning €250,000,” Verstraete said. “So he’s really very lucky.”

For now, Verstraete is hoping his client’s luck will work in his favor as they try to get his paperwork in order.


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