Nguyen Van Het and his wife in their charity house built by local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City's District 11. After winning more than US$400,000 in a local lottery earlier this month, their home has been flooded by droves of people claiming to be long-lost relatives and demanding a piece of the windfall.
A poverty-stricken 97-year-old man won a lottery jackpot of more than US$400,000 during Tet, sparking an outbreak of chaos in his neighborhood as local residents mobbed his home asking a piece of the windfall.
Local authorities in Ho Chi Minh City's District 11 had to step in to maintain order and ensure the safety of lottery winner Nguyen Van Het, who lives with his wife in a charity house built by local authorities on Lac Long Quan Street in Ward 5. The elderly couple lives under the poverty line and were described by acquaintances as senile.
With the help of his neighbors and local authorities, Het deposited VND5 billion ($262,400) of the sum in his bank account after he gave away an unknown amount to his relatives and VND20 million ($1,067) to the vendor who had sold him the tickets.
Het won the prize after buying six Tay Ninh Province February 11 lottery tickets with VND100,000 ($5.3) in li xi ("lucky money") he received from a neighbor ahead of the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday. Small packets of "lucky money" are a traditional Tet gift.
He won a total of VND7.6 billion ($405,333), which is a massive sum in a country where the annual per capita income is around $1,000. Five of the tickets, of the same six digit number, won him VND1.5 billion each, while the remaining ticket won VND100 million.
"On the previous night, I had dreamed that I would win the lottery three times," he told Thanh Nien.
However, one of his neighbors who had helped him check the lottery results told him he won just a small prize. The neighbor only admitted the truth when the lottery ticket vendor arrived to inform him of the actual results.
The lottery winner then handed out money to those who came to congratulate him and asked another neighbor, who wanted to be known only as L., to keep the remaining amount of VND5.65 billion.
L. said he and local police had helped Het deposit the VND5 billion. He is also helping Het keep and watch over VND350 million in cash. Het gave VND300 million to many of his relatives under the witness of local authorities, but he had given more money away before authorities arrived.
Cao Hoang Khuong, chairman of the Ward 5 Vietnam Fatherland Front Committee, said local authorities would help record the amount of money Het handed to his relatives and would not intervene in his decisions over what to do with the money.
Meanwhile, Het's neighbors reported that droves of strangers have been showing up at his house claiming to be his relatives in hopes of sharing in the newfound wealth.
"The couple has lived alone for years on financial support from local authorities. However, a number of people I've never seen before have arrived at his house claiming to be his family and asking for money," one neighbor said.
Het admitted that he was tired because so many strangers had been arriving at his door asking for money. Many had claimed to be long-lost relatives.
Lottery winner wins again, starts 'repayment' charity tour
After winning VND7.6 billion ($405,333) in the local lottery two weeks ago, 97-year-old Nguyen Van Het has made clear his decision to give away large sums of the money to his neighbors and several pagodas that had helped him when he was poor.
On Tuesday, he gave 35 separate gifts of 20 kilograms of rice to his neighbors in Ward 5's Neighborhood 5, District 11, Ho Chi Minh City.
He also took a taxi with some neighbors to visit three pagodas in HCMC and donated a total of VND55 million ($2,880). The pagodas helped him when he was poor, he said, adding that his donation was actually just a "repayment."
Het said that he would buy more lottery tickets because he had dreamed that he would win the lottery three times and that his charity tour could bring him good luck toward winning the other two.
Het then won another VND600,000 ($31.5) with three lottery tickets from Ben Tre Province on the same day he began his charity tour. Many people have since visited his house to touch his hands for good luck. Many lottery retailers in HCMC have reported an increase in sales by up to 15-20 percent since news of Het's winning spread.
"I will buy a television set and pork to braise and five sets of new clothes each for me and my wife," Het said when asked if he would spend the money on himself. "I will also build a new house, simple, but wider to welcome my guests."
Reported by Cong Minh - Minh Nam