Ser­bia ques­tions pop­u­lar TV host in in­ves­ti­ga­tion into lottery fraud

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Eleven peo­ple have been ques­tioned and the boss of Ser­bia’s state lottery forced to re­sign in a fraud probe into an ex­tra­or­di­nary “co­in­ci­dence” in a live tele­vi­sion draw, an in­te­rior min­istry spokesman told AFP.

Those held in­cluded the host­ess of Tues­day’s draw, Alek­san­dra Gudelj, who was made to take a lie de­tec­tor test, lo­cal media re­ported, af­ter a mis­match of a graphic on the screen and a num­ber drawn sparked claims of a fix.

Dur­ing the live broad­cast num­ber 21 ap­peared on screen at the mo­ment when num­ber 27 was of­fi­cially pulled from the au­to­matic lottery ma­chine. The sus­pi­cion of mil­lions of view­ers rose as the next num­ber drawn was 21.

The Ser­bian State Lottery (DLS) said it was due to a “tech­ni­cal mis­take” and that num­ber 21 was pulled out “by pure co­in­ci­dence,” and that the draw was “per­fectly reg­u­lar.” No one won Tues­day’s 1-mil­lion-euro jack­pot.

How­ever, fol­low­ing a public out­cry, the head of the DLS, Alek­san­dar Vulovic, re­signed “on moral grounds” and the state pros­e­cu­tor or­dered a probe into the case.

The lottery is hugely pop­u­lar in poverty-stricken Ser­bia, par­tic­u­larly among its 1.7 mil­lion pen­sion­ers and the un­em­ployed, who make up some 20 per­cent of the Balkan coun­try’s 7-mil­lion pop­u­la­tion.

Po­lice seized the lottery ma­chine, balls and com­puter soft­ware and in­tend to broaden their in­ves­ti­ga­tion by ques­tion­ing ear­lier win­ners of the lottery, lo­cal media re­ported.

But po­lice spokesman Ne­manja Pan­tic said he could “nei­ther give de­tails of the probe nor con­firm what fur­ther steps would be.”

Prime Min­is­ter Alek­san­dar Vu­cic said if there had been crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity “these peo­ple will be brought to jus­tice.”

“The path to prison is short,” Vu­cic told re­porters.

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