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VAT lottery procedure

Over 10 years ago 11 persons, two of whom were government officials, were charged with tampering in the draw of the VAT lottery, by clipping receipts in grooves of the lottery drum which they later drew as the winning tickets.

This scam had gone on for a number of years, with the presumed winners pocketing merely €200 and the rest going to the organisers.

In 2005 I queried whether this magisterial enquiry had ended, and if so, how? So many years have elapsed, I feel that it is about time the public is made aware of the result, if there is one!

On June 15, I went to St James Ditch in Valletta, where the national lottery used to be held and where thousands of people used to flock, to watch the draw of the VAT lottery (which unlike the Super 5 and lotto is never transmitted on TV).

At exactly 8.30 a.m. the huge metal doors were slightly opened to reveal the enormous drum containing 150 kilos of receipts. In front of this drum sat five officials and a person in charge of the drum.

Next to them were four chairs one of which was occupied by a woman (who later was to draw the winning tickets). When one of the officials saw me peeping through, he asked me to go on the stage and sit with the audience.

I thanked him and took my seat. I was the only member of the audience.

At the start of the proceedings, the eight portholes on the drum were opened, and the five officials, standing in Indian file, walked to the front of the drum and each one put their hand through each hole in order to make sure there were no tickets wedged in the grooves, as had happened so many years earlier. All the holes were tightly closed and the drum started revolving.

The lady goes in front of hole number 1 and opens the flap, lifting her arm to show that she does not hold any tickets, and dips her arm into the drum drawing a ticket.

This ticket is passed to the first official who examines and stamps it.

The ticket is passed on to the others, who examine, calculate the winnings and finally seal it in an envelope. This procedure is repeated till the established figure of €58,234 is reached.

Everything is clear and above board. Very well done!

One small point I would like to mention. Every ticket drawn was at least 15 centimetres long, the type issued by supermarkets. None of the shorter ones was drawn.

That means that out of 33 winners there were 17 winning over €1,000, some reaching a figure of over €17,000.

Maybe, if the smaller tickets are also drawn, there would be more winners, albeit of smaller sums.

But of course this would make the whole procedure last twice as long, which I am sure the persons involved would not appreciate.

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