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article imageSerbia questions TV hostess in lottery fraud probe

By AFP     Jul 31, 2015 in World

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 Tueday'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 one 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 seven-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 very short," Vucic told reporters.

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