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10 Jun, 2009 09:51

Disabled man takes cheating friend to court

A disabled man in South-Eastern Russia was unable to attend a local lottery draw. So his friend went on his behalf, but claimed the top prize for himself. It resulted in a feud, a court case, and a marriage breakup.

It was a life-changing moment for Ivan Diakonov when he won the top prize in a lottery organized by a local store organized a lottery – an apartment.

“I can’t believe that I’m here, that I won, I’m very happy!” said lottery winner Diakonov on local TV.

However, the self-professed winner was in fact a fake. Diakonov originally had a losing ticket. The winning numbers belonged to his friend Askhar Arstambekov, who couldn't get attend the draw himself. After an accident at work he needs constant care and uses a walking stick. Therefore he asked his friend Diakonov to take his ticket to the draw for him.

When he returned, his wife told me my ticket didn't win anything. So I congratulated them and left,” recalls real lottery winner Askhar.

Diakonov claimed the prize and became a local star. He didn’t fancy the six-month wait for the flat and took 300,000 roubles – some $10,000 – instead and bought a car.

“Deceiving a healthy person is bad enough, but tricking a disabled man is even worse,” says Gulnara Gorbunova, the lottery winner’s sister.

A year later the cheat came clean about his thievery. The fake win hadn’t brought him much luck… Diakonov and his wife divorced and began fighting over the very car they bought with the disabled man’s prize money. Some locals believe it was the feud that forced Diakonov to confess. Whatever the truth, Arstambekov took his cheating friend to court.

“He admits he took the money that belonged to his friend but doesn’t think it was a theft,” says Intimak Sadirov, local deputy prosecutor.

Even Diakonov’s former father-in-law insists he’s innocent:

“Askhar gave Ivan his ticket. ‘I’ve never had any luck in lottery,’ he said, ‘so take my ticket or leave it! It’s a present!’” says Dmitry Kubekov, Diakonov’s former father-in-law.

Diakonov now has to return the prize money to the real winner. He was the wrong man at the right time, but cheating his friend has made him the biggest loser.