Paris shopkeepers 'cheated customer out of £24m lottery jackpot'

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The Independent Online

Two Parisian tobacconists from the Rue des Entrepreneurs admitted yesterday they had taken their street name too literally. They, and a friend, cheated a customer out of a €35.5m (£24m) win on the EuroMillions lottery last month.

The shopkeepers told the customer, a 30-year-old accountant, that his tickets were all losers. In fact, two of them, with exactly the same permutation of numbers, had won the weekly jackpot.

The tobacconists pretended to throw away the tickets. A few days later, they asked an unemployed friend to pose as the "winner" in return for a €1.5m cut. He successfully claimed the prize but his bank grew suspicious when he transferred most of the money to another account.

The French national lottery company, La Française des Jeux, asked for an investigation by the French internal security service, the Renseignements Généraux (RG), which also polices gaming.

The RG studied the pattern of EuroMillions tickets bought at the Tabac in the Rue des Entrepreneurs in the 15th arrondissement. They discovered the winning numbers had been played regularly before the big win on 11 May - but also afterwards. That suggested the winner was not aware his regular line had hit the jackpot.

The shopkeepers, named only as Reginald and Brigitte C, aged 57, were arrested earlier this week. So was their friend. All three initially denied the scam but confessed yesterday.

They have been placed under formal investigation for "conspiracy to commit fraud". The winner, who has asked for no publicity, had no idea he was a millionaire until police called two weeks ago. He will receive his €35,565,110 in about a month's time.

The shop owners admitted there had been a huge win on tickets bought from them. Reginald C even gave interviews in which he said: "If I won that much, I would close the shop tomorrow and complete my chalet in Savoie." He, his wife, and friend now face up to 10 years in jail.

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