The migrant who won €250,000 with a €5 scratchcard in the Belgian port city of Zeebrugge in West Flanders over a week ago and then disappeared before claiming his prize, has now finally shown up to collect his winnings.
At the end of March, the young man won €250,000 with a scratchcard that he bought in a Spar supermarket in Zeebrugge. As stores can only pay out winnings lower than €2,000 in cash, the owner tried to explain that the man had to contact the National Lottery, which would pay out the winnings after he presented his ticket.
But that never happened. The man did not come forward and instead disappeared.
It has now emerged that he did not have a residence permit and had also not applied for asylum in Belgium, as he was part of a group of migrants in Zeebrugge who were attempting to cross the Channel to the United Kingdom – meaning that very little was known about his identity.
The only things the National Lottery could rely on to identify him were camera footage from the shop where he bought the scratchcard and a picture of the man taken by the local priest, Fernand Maréchal, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.
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Last Friday, however, three men presented themselves at the National Lottery with the lottery ticket in question. But none of them matched the images of the winner.
All three of them were arrested and the lottery ticket has been held in a safe by the Bruges police since then. It was feared that the three men had done something to the winner to collect his winnings.
But on Tuesday, the man who bought the scratchcard turned up at the police station, accompanied by a lawyer, the public prosecutor of West Flanders confirmed to De Standaard.
He could be identified as the real winner and was questioned in the presence of his lawyer. As he was unable to collect his winnings immediately, the man left the winning ticket at the police station for safekeeping.
No bank account
The National Lottery can only pay out such large sums by depositing them into a bank account, but as the winner has no residence permit in Belgium, he cannot open a bank account.
The money could also be deposited into a foreign bank account with the consent of the winner, the Lottery proposed, making it clear that it will do everything it can to give the money to the migrant. In any case, the man is definitely entitled to his winnings, "undocumented or not."
The three men who were briefly arrested for having the lottery ticket have since been released. It is not clear whether they had stolen the lottery ticket or were working with the winner to collect the money.