A Japanese man has been arrested after being charged with squandering the equivalent of $455,000 mistakenly paid to him in COVID benefits, police said Thursday.
The arrest came after the 24-year-old claimed, through his lawyer, that he spent it all in online casinos, but decided to “return the money, even if it (should) be done little by little”.
The tidy sum of 46.3 million yen (455,000 dollars) was transferred to him last month following a confusion between officials of the commune of Abu, in the west of Japan, who then paid allowances to low-income people affected by the pandemic.
Municipal officials had multiplied visits, calls and letters to try to convince the person concerned to reimburse the money. Tired of the fight, the municipality had taken legal action last week.
“We arrested the man for apparently violating the law on computer fraud,” a police officer in Yamaguchi prefecture, where Abu is located, told AFP.
The man is believed to have received benefits by transferring some of the money to another online account, despite being aware that he had received the money in error.
He is in custody and claimed to have used the money in online casinos, the officer said.
“I think the arrest is a step towards the truth,” Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada told reporters.
“I honestly don’t believe (he used it all up) and it’s possible (there’s money) somewhere,” he said, adding that city staff were exhausted from calls. and angry emails from the public.