Currently anonymous winner wants to avoid publicity, fears being targeted for his undocumented status
By Kate Northrop
An undocumented Algerian will have to provide identification he does not possess after winning a lottery prize in Belgium, where it is required for winners to prove their identity to claim winnings.
More money, more problems, at least for one nameless Algerian who won €250,000 (US$270,000) from a scratch-off ticket in the Belgium National Lottery.
A Belgian lawyer says that his client walked into a retailer in Zeebrugge, Belgium to buy a lottery ticket a few weeks ago and walked out a quarter of a million richer. That's where problems began for the 28-year-old undocumented migrant from Algeria.
"He paid five euros and won the ticket," Alexander Verstraete, the client's lawyer told NPR. "He won 250,000 euros."
The nameless man was in disbelief, so he asked his friend to help verify the win. They both returned to the shop to check one more time, just to confirm that their suspicions that the ticket was worth a small fortune were correct.
He just had to provide a way to prove his identity to the Belgium National Lottery to claim his prize. However, having arrived in Belgium two months ago without any papers, a home, and lacking official documentation, that would be a bit tricky.
The 28-year-old looked for ways to claim the winnings without divulging his identity, citing fears of being targeted by people for his undocumented status or by those who might pursue him for the money.
He sent a friend to Lottery headquarters in Rue Belliard to try and claim the prize on his behalf since he had forms of proper identification, but to no avail. If anything, it backfired — Lottery officials grew suspicious and called the authorities.
"The police in Zeebrugge knew who was the real winner because there were camera pictures from the store," Verstraete said in an interview with NPR.
However, camera footage is not enough to confirm an individual's win or their identity. Instead, the winner is being told by the case prosecutor to obtain an official ID card, which would mean reaching out to his family in Algeria and contacting the embassy in Belgium.
The Algerian will have to open a bank account under his name, and that also means providing a legal home address.
This also doesn't change the fact that the ticket expires in a year, which gives him 11 months to either comply with the demands or walk away without the prize. Verstraete believes he and his client will navigate the process successfully.
In the meantime, the winning lottery ticket remains in police custody until the migrant can sort out his documentation, and they said they won't deport him until he gets his money.
Before winning the lottery, Verstraete said his client had dreams of buying a home and a car and settling down. His stroke of luck at that shop in Zeebrugge makes it seem even more possible.
"Maybe you have one chance in a million to win 250,000 euros," Verstraete surmised. "So he has very much luck indeed."