František Václavek is a homeless man in the Czech Republic who will be spending this Christmas, as many before it, in a shelter. It needn’t have been the case. Four years ago, Václavek won 30 million crowns with a single lottery ticket. But he was wheedled out of it by a couple who used the winnings to buy a luxury home in Prague. A court later sent them to prison but Václavek is still waiting for what is rightfully his.
František Václavek, in his 50s, liked buying lottery tickets and bet often say friends and acquaintances, some telling Czech Radio in the past that the lottery even came before food. Four years ago, with a random choice of numbers, he hit the jackpot: 30 million crowns. But the homeless man made a crucial mistake: trusting two people he worked for at a bakery, Miroslav Šoška and Jana Černá, with his ticket. A court later found Ms Černá fraudulently claimed the earnings and together with Mr Šoška bought a luxury home complete with a pool and other comforts in Klánovice, Prague. The ticket’s owner remained penniless. As a result he will spend this Christmas in a shelter. Czech Radio caught up with Mr Václavek earlier.
An appeals court this August confirmed Václavek’s right to the funds and increased the prison sentences for the fraudsters from five years to six. The seizure and sale of property and other assets have since been ordered, but now depend on a 30-day appeals process. In short, the return of what the homeless man is owed will take some time yet. Petra Báčová is the spokeswoman for the Chamber of Distraint Officers:
“The order to seize property which has been issued has not yet come into effect – no steps can be taken yet. Basically, the debtors have 30 days to pay off what they owe.”
In the past, Mr Václavek expressed the desire to buy property of his own, to have his teeth fixed, go on vacation and to start his own business. There, experts are wary: the lottery winner – once he receives his money – may again be in danger of losing his new-found wealth. During trial, a psychologist called in as an expert witness evaluated Mr Václavek as suffering from a mild form of retardation: he warned that the homeless man could – under certain circumstances – react like a child, be submissive and overly-trustworthy, unable to hold his own against dominant personality types, in other words those who would manipulate him for their own benefit.
In the expert’s view, the lottery winner would be best-served by a custodian to help oversee his funds. But given that Mr Václavek is recognised as legally competent to administer his own affairs such restrictions are not an option. Once the seizure and forced sale of property go ahead, and proceeds go to a bank account, Mr Václavek will, by rights, be free to use his money as he wants. There are outstanding previous debts, his legal team has said in the past, but even after these are paid, the homeless man, who has become something of a minor celebrity in some circles, should retain enough to be able to, with a little luck, turn his life around.
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