Last week the Tabac (Tobacco shop) where I buy my newspaper here in the 15th Arrondissement, Paris was closed. "That's funny"...I thought..."they must have gone on holidays". As it happens they weren't on holidays at all but on garde à vue - in Police Custody.
Turns out the husband and wife tobacconists (57 year old Reggie and Brigitte) and an unemployed partner-in-crime had cheated a customer out of a €35.5m win on the EuroMillions lottery last month.
The shopkeepers did the old switcheroo - they told the customer, a 30-year-old accountant, that his tickets were all losers. In fact, two of them, with exactly the same permutation of numbers, had won the weekly jackpot.
The tobacconists pretended to bin the tickets. A few days later, they asked the unemployed Bozo to pose as the winner in return for a €1.5m cut. He successfully claimed the prize but his bank grew suspicious when he transferred most of the money to another account (presumably the Tabac-owner's).
The French national lottery company, La Française des Jeux, asked for an investigation by Les Flics - in this case the Renseignements Généraux (RG) - the Internal Security Service which also polices gaming.
The RG studied the pattern of EuroMillions tickets bought at the Tabac in the appropriately-named Rue des Entrepreneurs. And lo and behold they discovered the winning numbers had been played regularly before the big win on 11 May - but also afterwards. "That's funny" they thought. "Why would somebody keep playing the same numbers after just winning Thirty Five Big Ones?"
So the shopkeepers and their dole-bludging mate were arrested and put on the rack. They denied everything until the boiling oil was applied. (I made that bit up but they did confess)
The Tabac is back open but I notice there are different people behind the counter. Reggie, his Missus and the mate are out on bail after being charged with "conspiracy to commit fraud". The winner, who's publicity-shy, had no idea he was a millionaire until the Police called - "Monsieur...we have Good News and Bad News...the good news is that you've won €35.5 on Euromillions. The bad news is that you can't have it right now".
The dopey Tabac owners admitted there had been a huge win on tickets bought from them. Reggie even gave television interviews in which he said: "If I won that much, I would close the shop tomorrow and complete my chalet in Savoie". Why didn't he just do a runner? is what I'm thinking.
He, his Missus, and the financial-genius mate now face up to 10 years in the nick - plenty of time to draw up new plans for the Chalet in the Alps.
By the way...I bet Les Flics said to unemployed Matey "Look you're going down for this with the others...but don't you think it a bit unfair that you're gonna do the same time even though they probably screwed you out of an equal share - what was your cut by the way?" At least that's how it would have gone down on Maigret.