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Vancouver lottery winner loses in divorce case

Apr 17, 2007, 8:36 am

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After the Big Win

A $10 million lottery windfall brought an estranged Vancouver couple back together.

But eight years later, the marriage wound up in divorce court with a sticky issue to be resolved: What should be done with $2.2 million in an account the husband claimed was for his personal use?

In granting their divorce last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Heather Holmes ruled the $2.2 million must be split between Minh Kien Le, 58, and his ex-wife, Mai Huong Cao, 55.

The couple escaped with their two young children by boat from their native Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

They settled in Terrace and later moved to Vancouver and scraped together enough money to buy a house on Fraser Street.

Le was laid off in 1996 and did odd jobs for cash until he became a multimillionaire in the Dec. 23, 1999 Super 7 draw.

After his win, Le gifted his three children $1.5 million each.

Together, the couple built a new house on West 59th Avenue and put it in Cao's name.

Both sides agreed that interest from a joint account containing $2.2 million paid household expenses of about $115,000 a year and should be divided equally.

But Le considered $2.2 million in an account in his name alone to be his, although he used some of the money for family purposes.

That was enough to satisfy the law on splitting assets.

"Challenged about how he could have paid from the joint account all the family expenses set out in his financial statement, [Le] responded that he would withdraw amounts from the second fund and place them in his own checking account as necessary to pay family or other expenses," said the judge, noting that amounted to paying the expenses from the second fund.

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