Rags-to-riches tramp bags fortune in bottles

MOSCOW Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:49am EDT

A man looks at bottles of wine on display at the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona April 3, 2009. REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo

A man looks at bottles of wine on display at the Vinitaly wine expo in Verona April 3, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Alessandro Garofalo

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - A 63-year-old homeless Russian man has gone from street life to stock market trader after collecting thousands of empty booze bottles for cash, a popular Russian tabloid reported on Tuesday.

Pictured in a majestic purple suit and matching violet jewelry, Leonid Konovalov told the Tvoi Den paper he collected around 2,000 bottles a day over the past year since the economic downturn hit Russia last autumn.

"Russians are drinking a little bit more due to the crisis, and this helped me get out of the rubbish dump," said Konovalov, an ex-engineer from the industrial city of Kemerovo in eastern Siberia who has spent the last 20 years living in a tip.

Russia's many homeless are often seen rooting through rubbish for bottles and tins, which they can trade for money. A glass bottle can fetch about 2 rubles ($0.06).

The bearded former tramp said he was encouraged by his two grandchildren to take risks on the stock market and said his first transaction was a 50,000 euro ($74,120) share-purchase.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, editing by Paul Casciato)

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