Police in Hanoi have said it was a local taxi driver who had given ‘hell money,’ or joss paper, as change to two foreign passengers last week, not a xich lo (cycle rickshaw) driver as earlier alleged in a viral social media post.
The cabby is Tran Van Phong, 29, and the foreigners are Spanish, not French as previously reported, Hanoi police said on Saturday.
On July 16 evening, Miguel Angel Fernandez Lamelas and his girlfriend Elena Blasco Hernandez, both 37, took a Sao Viet Nam taxi to a hotel in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, according to the investigation.
Upon arrival, Lamelas gave Phong VND500,000 (US$22) and received three banknote-like pieces of paper which he thought as change for the VND37,000 ($1.62) fare.
The items consisted of one VND500,000 piece and two VND200,000 ($9).
|Tran Van Phong is seen in this picture provided by Hanoi police.|
Only on the following day, when the foreigners used the ‘change’ to purchase bus tickets for a journey to Sa Pa, a tourist mecca about 320 kilometers from Hanoi, did they realize the items were simply ‘hell money,’ a kind of joss paper meant to be burned to provide the deceased with ‘money’ in the afterlife.
But the tourists failed to report the case to police immediately and spent two days in Sa Pa before returning to Hanoi.
Driver Phong admitted wrongdoing, confessing to police that his dishonest behavior was motivated by greed.
Earlier media reports said that a pedicab driver was accused of giving the foreigners 'hell money' after taking them on a tour around the capital.
The accusation went together with a video and pictures of Miguel Angel Fernandez Lamelas, Elena Blasco Hernandez and the 'hell money' they received, prompting police to launch an investigation into the case.
As of Monday noon, police had yet to confirm whether the dishonest cabby would be subject to any penalty.
Nguyen Van Chinh, identifying himself as the trishaw driver, flatly rejected the scam in an interview with news website Dan Tri right after the allegation surfaced.
Chinh, stunned by the imputation, said the passengers had given him the exact sum he charged them and a tip of VND200,000, which means he handed no change.
“I’ve worked as a trishaw driver for three years but never have I done anything that is dishonest and makes my conscience prick me,” he was quoted by the website.