KAOHSIUNG, Taiwan -- A couple in Kaohsiung succumbing to avarice were indicted for an alleged attempt to deprive a friend of a super lottery prize after the lotto ticket they were asked to buy hit the NT$920 million (S$40.296 million) jackpot.
Prosecutors in southern Kaohsiung City said an engineer surnamed Tu working at a high-tech firm asked a friend, Chang, to purchase Super Lotto tickets for him with numbers he choose in July last year because he was tied up with work in mainland China.
Tu said he befriended Chang and his wife years back after he started to purchase lotto tickets at their betting station. The friendship persisted although the couple closed the betting business three years ago.
While back on a home visit in May last year, Tu paid an advance of NT$2,000 (S$87.60) to entrust the couple to buy the tickets for him by circling his favorite numbers, which he sent to Chang via text message.
Tu also made an elaborate effort to call Chang in the afternoon of July 2 as a reminder.
Records show that Chang made the bet for Tu six minutes after receiving the mobile phone call.
However, Tu was given a cold shoulder after he learned about the winning numbers and called the friend in the evening of the same day. Detecting the lack of warmness from the friend in their conversation over the phone, Tu called Chang several more times and started recording their conversations over the phone.
Chang asked for a cut from the bonanza and talked about a plan to discuss with Tu how much should be given to charity.
It turned out that Chang's wife took the winning ticket and claimed the prize money - NT$739.9 million (S$32.4 million) after tax - which was remitted into her bank account on July 8.
Since then, the Changs no longer took his phone calls, Tu said.
Tu said he always honored his promise to make payments for every bet he asked the Changs to make on his behalf.
The Changs also faithfully made the bets for Tu according to the numbers he selected.
But the trust still failed the litmus test after Tu's numbers won him a huge fortune.
After Tu filed the lawsuit against the Changs, the couple confirmed that they did receive Tu's instructions to make the bet with the numbers he picked.
The Changs said they did make the bets based on Tu's recommendation. But they argued that they had not promised to buy the lotto ticket for Tu.
Furthermore, they said the money spent on the winning ticket belonged to them.
To help settle the dispute, prosecutors launched an investigation and managed to ask Taiwan Lottery Co. (TLC) to temporarily freeze the prize money in the bank account.
A TLC executive said it's the company policy to make the payment to anyone who presents a winning ticket.
But they also said this is a highly unusual case and the company decided to take advice from prosecutors to freeze the funds until the legitimate winner was identified.
A prosecutor revealed that evidence showed that it was the Changs who failed to honor their promise. There were also signs showing that they did not tell the truth in polygraph testing.
The Changs could face a maximum imprisonment of five years if they are convicted of breach of trust.
Experts suggested that lotto bettors should take proper measures to safeguard their interests and avoid possible disputes when asking others to make the bets for them.
The steps include signing written agreements or using text messages as evidence. But the selected numbers should be included in the pacts or communications messages, they said. People should also use written agreements, and signatures by all members acknowledging the pact, and make a copy of the lottery tickets purchased, they suggested.