3 people swindle in European lottery and collect 33 million euro

Two Paris shopkeepers and another person were detained after they allegedly scammed a European lottery and collected 33 million EUR (US$44 million).

Police believe the couple of shopkeepers, who own a Paris tobacco store, realized they had sold the winning Euro Millions ticket on May 11 when a man came in to check whether he had won. The shopkeepers allegedly lied and told him he had not - and they kept the ticket themselves, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Investigators believe the couple passed the numbers off to a third party - someone who would be less suspicious to authorities - who claimed to be the winner, the officials said.

Three days after receiving the prize, the alleged accomplice deposited 30 million EUR (US$40 million) into the shopkeepers' account, the officials said.

Thierry Herzog, lawyer for La Francaise des Jeux, the French lottery authority, said the game operator had two priorities: "finding the real winner and exposing the people who carried out this scam."

The Paris prosecutor's office opened a judicial inquiry June 19 following a complaint by La Francaise de Jeux. Investigators tracked down the true winner, and Herzog said everything would be done to ensure he takes home the winnings.

People in nine countries - France, Spain, Britain, Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland - play the Euro Millions lottery.