Money isn't everything

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Do Ngoc Tuan (R), 42, of Long An Province's Ben Luc Town won more than US$300,000 after buying unsold tickets from vendor Pham Thi Lanh (L)

Tuan's equanimity in the face of such a change in his fortunes has made the news as much as the winning itself.

Just as impressive is the story of how he bought the tickets and learnt of his winning.

At 4 p.m. on November 15, lottery vendor Pham Thi Lanh, 29, phoned her regular patron Tuan and requested him to buy 20 tickets, as she usually did whenever she was unable to sell all the tickets before the results were announced at 5 p.m. everyday. She only informed him of the last two numbers of the six-digit tickets.

An hour later at a café, Lanh checked the results and found that 13 of the 20 tickets won big prizes, including four with the highest prize-money, VND1.5 billion each.

What Lanh did next surprised many.

She just phoned Tuan to come to the café and pay her VND200,000 for the 20 tickets he had promised to buy.

Tuan thought Lanh was joking but he still drove to the café on his three-wheeler after delivering some iron bars to a nearby construction site. He gave Lanh one winning ticket after taking the others and paying for them.

Lanh said the winning lottery tickets were not hers because she had promised to sell it to Tuan.

"He has always helped me by buying my tickets that way whenever I was unable to sell them all. After finding the tickets had not won anything, he just paid me the money. The [winning] tickets were his. What would people think about me if I kept it for myself?" she said.

Lanh herself had a winning ticket and together with another that Tuan gave her, she won a total of VND3.3 billion. She gave some money to her parents to build a new house back in Dong Thap Province, also in the Mekong Delta, and said she will continue selling lottery tickets.

For better or worse

Tuan said he would save the money for his son without spending or allowing it to change his life for better or worse.

Although he had deposited the money in a local bank, he still seemed very cautious in talking with any stranger.

Last week, Vietweek found him sitting at a roadside café next to his house to monitor the construction work. He pretended to be his twin brother until the reporter introduced himself and the purpose for the visit.

Tuan is the youngest of six brothers and sisters and has no twin brother.

Tuan said he would never spend all the winning money like the poverty-stricken 98-year-old Nguyen Van Het in Ho Chi Minh City's District 11, who lost almost all his money after winning VND7.6 billion ($405,333) in February 2010.

Het has told reporters he gave his money away to charities, the local government and an endless parade of people claiming to be his relatives.

A neighbor told Vietweek on Monday that Het is living his last days in poverty again with a niece, a distant relative, in Go Vap District.

"He has only some VND100 million ($4,755) intended to spend for his funeral and burial," she said.

A local police official confirmed that he has not seen Het over the past months and that they would "update" Het's address in Go Vap soon.

"He has no money now. What to write about him then?" the police official said when Vietweek requested details of his new residence.

Referring to Tuan and Het, psychologist Nguyen Thi Ngoc Giau said winners should make better plans to avoid possible negative impacts of the sudden influx of big money.

"Their life, future and happiness will be decided by their thinking and attitude toward the winning money," she told Vietweek.

"Life is changing all the time and we should avoid being shocked by such changes and instead adapt well to have a healthy physical and mental life."

In Het's case, she said people may feel pity for him for spending almost all the money, but he was old and might not have cared much about his future when spending all but a small amount for his funeral.

Giau also said Tuan could use the money better by investing it and earning greater returns.

"Money is only valuable when it is in use. Wasteful spending is dangerous in such cases, but it is also not a positive approach when the money is not invested wisely," she said.


Tran Nam Phuc of Long An Province's Hydro-meteorological Center has petitioned authorities for justice, accusing the center's director, Truong Huu Binh, of misappropriating his lottery ticket that won VND1.5 billion ($71,327).

The case happened on December 2, 2011 when Hoc, an employee of a local company, visited the center to obtain hydrology statistics. Hoc bought lottery tickets and gifted them to center's employees, including Binh and Phuc.

After a working day, Phuc came to moonlight at Binh's pho (beef noodle soup) restaurant as usual to earn some extra money.

There, Binh offered to help Phuc check the result of his two tickets. He only informed Phuc that they did not win.

The ticket vendor came to the center later in the day and informed the staff about the winning ticket.

Phuc asked Binh to return the ticket but Binh insisted that the tickets he checked had won nothing. He also told reporters that the tickets had not won anything and that he would never have taken it if they did.

Phuc reported the matter to the local police and was directed to Tan An Town People's Court that handles civil disputes.

On Tuesday, Phuc told Vietweek that Binh's wife had given him VND30 million and asked him to write a paper saying he saw her picking the ticket from a trash bin, which means she was the owner of the ticket.

Phuc said he had taken the money and would use it as evidence in asking for a police investigation.

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