14 December 2007
MADRID – For millions of Spaniards, having a number come up in the annual Christmas lottery – known as El Gordo, meaning The Fat One, to be drawn this year on 22 December – is better than anything that Santa Claus could bring. The draw itself is deeply entrenched in Spanish culture and tradition, with the numbers being sung out by the children from Madrid’s San Ildefonso school over a whole morning.
A total of EUR 2.2 billion will be doled out, with most people having bought a tenth of a ticket – a décimo – which costs EUR 20 and entitles the lucky winner to some EUR 300,000 if their number is drawn. But having your number come up doesn’t automatically lead to riches, as this cautionary tale reveals.
Gloria F. R. and Guillermo B. R. started living together in 1998, and from then on began to share everything – including their income. After several years, in the summer of 2003, they asked one of Guillermo’s cousins to buy them a décimo ticket, as he happened to be in the city of Sort, Lleida, where demand is exceptionally high for tickets due to its high incidence of winners and the fact its name literally means "luck."
The couple paid EUR 20 for the ticket, and, come 22 December, the San Ildefonso choir began to draw the numbers and sang out theirs: 42,473. They had won a jackpot of EUR 200,000. There was only one problem: the couple had been separated since November and the ticket was in Guillermo’s hands.
On Christmas Eve, Gloria called him on the phone, asking for her half of the prize. He answered saying that they’d talk about it soon. Several days later, Guillermo’s parents went to see Gloria. They told her that several members of the family had bought décimos and that they had pooled them all together. That meant, according to them, that they had to share the money with the rest of the family – a total of eight people. They told her that at the most, she could expect a cash prize of EUR 33,000.
But Gloria went to her lawyer. The Barcelona High Court found in her favour and the Supreme Court has confirmed at least part of that ruling, concluding that it was all "a strategy" by the family put together after the draw to "keep the share of money from the plaintiff."
Four years later, Gloria can finally collect her winnings. Guillermo has been sent to prison for a year and has also been given a fine. His accomplices – his parents, brother and a friend – who were also sentenced by the High Court, have been let off. The Supreme Court ruled that they collaborated in Guillermo’s "manoeuvres" but only to help him out – they were not interested in keeping the money.
[Copyright EL PAÍS, SL. / MÓNICA C. BELAZA / Santiago Hernández Galán 2007]
Subject: Spanish news