A dispute between two former fishing buddies who destroyed their friendship over a missing lottery ticket claimed to be worth $3.5 million (US$2.7 million) has ended up in an Australian court.
Preston man Ismet Porcic claims he bought and subsequently lost a winning Tattslotto ticket from an Essendon newsagent in September 2014 that ended up winning a one-sixth share of the $21 million (US$16.2 million) division one prize pool.
Mr. Porcic has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against Tattersalls alleging that his former close friend, Gabriel Zacharia, stole the lottery ticket and then claimed the massive jackpot for himself.
He is seeking access from the court to CCTV footage recorded by the newsagent, as well as the winning Quickpick ticket itself, so he can get an expert to run fingerprint analysis on it and prove he bought it.
The plasterer claims his entry went missing when he was helping renovate the A1 Bakery in Essendon, said to be co-owned by Mr. Zacharia, on the day of the draw.
However, Mr. Porcic said he did not realize the ticket was missing until a few days later, when a television news bulletin reported a winner from the Essendon newsagency had not come forward.
He went back to see his friend and asked if he could review the CCTV footage taken in his bakery's office on the day he claimed the ticket vanished.
"Gabriel told me that the security camera in his office was not working that evening. At this point, I started to become suspicious of Gabriel," the affidavit said.
Court documents show that before the dispute Mr. Porcic regarded Mr. Zacharia as "my brother" and would spend time with his family socializing or going out to dinner.
The two also co-owned a small boat together and would go fishing as often as once or twice a week. However, that all changed when Mr. Porcic lost his lottery ticket and accused his friend of stealing it.
He claimed that he approached Mr. Zacharia multiple times about the ticket, alleging that phone calls were not returned and that he later changed his mobile number.
After being unable to find Mr. Zacharia, Mr. Porcic said he finally confronted his former friend a month later asking to see the CCTV footage but was rebuffed.
"I left the bakery in frustration and suspicious that Gabriel knew about the ticket and had stolen it," he claimed in the affidavit.
A subsequent meeting set up by Mr Zacharia's cousin in November resulted in a no-show by his friend, Mr. Porcic claimed.
He said that "Gabriel's strange behaviour" given their friendship for "almost a decade" increased his suspicions that "he had stolen the ticket".
Mr. Zacharia's address in court documents is listed in Queensland.
"Our boat is parked in my front yard and remains unregistered. Gabriel and I, who used to spend so many hours together each week fishing, have not fished together since," he said.
Mr. Porcic said he wrote to Tatts about the lost ticket, but was told by an employee that an investigation was conducted which found he was not the purchaser of the ticket.
Multiple requests to review CCTV footage taken at the Essendon newsagent were denied.
A follow-up analysis by Tatts and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation resulted in the confirmation of the original investigation.
He was told three Quickpick tickets were bought between 5pm and 7:30pm on the day in question and that Mr. Porcic was not one them. One of those tickets was the winner, he was told.
In his affidavit, Mr. Porcic said he was seeking access to CCTV footage, the winner's identity and the ticket itself in order to "potentially commence legal proceedings" to seek a share of the winnings.
Mr. Zacharia was unable to be contacted.
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