A participant has won the monthly VAT lottery five times in eight months.
But despite the low odds of having such a winning streak – about three million fiscal receipts are sent in by the public for the lottery every month – the Finance Ministry sees no need to investigate.
Participants stand to win 100 times the total on the receipt submitted, with the lowest amount being €233 even for receipts below €2.33.
The winners and the respective amounts are published every month alongside their identity card number.
Recently one individual won €279 in August last year, followed by €233 in November, €233 in January, €511 in February and €717 last May.
Though the combined sum amounts to a modest €1,973, questions were raised about the sequence of wins given the very low odds of victory.
Asked if the ministry would consider launching an investigation to quell these doubts, a spokesman indicated there were no such plans in hand.
“Years back, a similar situation arose and an investigation was carried out which resulted in ruling out any corrupt practices,” he said.
The ministry said the winning receipts were drawn under the supervision of a board composed of a notary from the Office of the Notary to Government and a representative each from the Finance Ministry, the Commissioner for Revenue and the public, the latter appointed by the Finance Minister. A representative of the National Audit Office is present as an observer for the draw, which is also open to the public.
The ministry said there were no restrictions in place that would prevent the same participants winning several times within a short span of time. The overall annual fund allocated for the lottery is of €700,000.
In 2016 it was found that a multiple VAT lottery winner whose “incredible luck” raised suspicions that it was being rigged, had actually submitted bin bags full of receipts and using the winnings to help fund humanitarian missions.
The VAT lottery was introduced over 20 years ago as an incentive for customers to ask for a fiscal receipt following the introduction of Value Added Tax.
A few years later it was rocked by a scam: 11 people were charged with tampering with the draw between June 2002 and October 2003.
During court proceedings, it emerged that the ‘winning’ receipt would be placed into a groove in the urn, from where it would be picked up during the draw.
Following this scandal the lottery was revamped and new procedures put in place to minimise the risk of abuse. However, the National Audit Office last year flagged a number of issues, including the size of the urn, which it deemed too small for the fiscal receipts to be adequately shuffled.
Consequently, concerns were raised that not all participants had an equal chance of success.
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