Huynh Thi Anh Hong was soaked with sweat as she pushed her trolley full of scrap on Tuesday afternoon when a phone call she had been waiting more than a year for finally came.
The call was from the Tan Binh District police unit of Ho Chi Minh City, who told the scrap dealer she was finally able to get back more than 5 million yen, a fortune she had discovered in a piece of scrap but last year gave to police in hopes of finding its real owner.
“I was deliriously happy,” the lucky 36-year-old woman recalled, speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper after she was taken to a Vietcombank branch to receive the money, in cash.
The ‘treasure’ consists of 524 banknotes of 10,000 yen, 116 of which are in poor condition.
Hong already had plans to spend her money.
“I will earmark part of the sum for charity and repairs to my house in my hometown [in Quang Ngai Province in the central region],” she said. “The remainder will be put into bank savings to afford schooling for my two children.”
Upon receiving the money, Hong was taken in a taxi to another bank in Phu Nhuan District, where she opened her first savings account in her life.
Hong had never been to a bank, and signing a number of papers was a tough task for the woman, who does not know how to read and write.
“My life is miserable, and it would have been so long without this money,” she said, after exchanging the yen for VND691.64 million (US$31,770).
“Even by working my whole life I will never have such a huge amount of money.”
The bank said it will contact its Japanese counterpart to see if the 116 torn banknotes are also eligible for exchange.
Hong only returned to her rented house when night fell, and was overwhelmed by congratulations from other scrap dealers and her neighbors.
“If you discover another fortune, will you still turn it in to police?” one asked, and Hong immediately replied, “I will.”
Hong asserted that after doing some charity work, she will return to her job as a scrap dealer, which she has been doing for 17 years.
“I will not quit even when I have so [much] money,” she said.
In November 2013, Hong found the fortune in a dumped loudspeaker she bought as scrap from a man in Tan Binh for VND100,000 ($4.6).
In March 2014, she turned the money to Tan Binh police.
On April 28 of that year, police ran public announcements to find the owner of the money, saying that if no one showed up after a year, Hong would be able to claim it.
On April 10, 2015, a 40-year-old woman named Pham Thi Ngot came to the police and claimed the money belonged to her South African husband.
On May 19, Tan Binh police rejected Ngot’s claim. Her husband was also found having used fake papers to work in Vietnam.
On June 2, Hong received the money.