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Meet the the lottery winner who has less than a year to prove his identity


And now a story about an unlucky lottery winner. A few weeks ago, a young man walked into a shop in Zeebrugge, Belgium, and bought a scratchcard.

ALEXANDER VERSTRAETE: He paid five euros and won the ticket. They won 250,000 euros.


That's about $270,000. Lawyer Alexander Verstraete represents the winner.

VERSTRAETE: He asked a friend of him if it was correct that he won. Together, they went back in the store. And indeed, he won 250,000 euros.

SHAPIRO: The problem is that Verstraete's client is a 28-year-old from Algeria. He came to Belgium two months ago with no papers, no home, and no way to prove his identity. We're not naming him because he's undocumented.

ESTRIN: He knew this would be an issue, so he sent a friend to the national lottery authority in Brussels to try to claim the money for him. That didn't work.

VERSTRAETE: And the police in Bruges knew who was the real winner because there were camera pictures from the store.

ESTRIN: Security cam photos were not enough. The prosecutor overseeing this case wanted the unlucky winner to obtain identification.

SHAPIRO: The request is in to family in Algeria as well as the embassy in Belgium. Verstraete is confident ID documents will arrive. For now, the prosecutor says Belgium won't deport the winner, and the lottery ticket is being held by police.

ESTRIN: The ticket does expire in one year. That leaves 11 months to satisfy the prosecutor's requests, which is time they could use to get a bank account.

VERSTRAETE: And then there is a similar problem. To have a bank account, you need to have an address - a legal address in Europe. But he does not have a legal address in Europe.

SHAPIRO: After Verstraete's client survived the journey from Algeria, the lawyer says his client wants to buy a house, a car and settle down. And his winnings have brought him closer to that dream.

VERSTRAETE: Maybe you have one chance in a million to win 250,000 euros. So indeed, he has very much luck indeed.

SHAPIRO: And now he hopes his client has a little extra luck for the legal process.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHAT LAURA SAYS SONG, "TRAINING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayen Deng Bior is a producer at NPR's flagship evening news program, All Things Considered. She helps shape the sound of the daily shows by contributing story ideas, writing scripts and cutting tape. Her work at NPR has taken her to Warsaw, Poland, where she heard from refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. She has spoken to people in Saint-Louis, Senegal, who are grappling with rising seas. Before NPR, Bior wore many hats at the Voice of America's English to Africa service where she worked in radio, television and digital. Bior began her career reporting on the revolution in Sudan, the developing state of affairs in South Sudan and the experiences of women behind the headlines in both countries. In her spare time, Bior loves to kayak, read and bird watch.