Japanese Man Accidentally Receives $358,000 in COVID Relief and Gambles It Away

  • The COVID funds were supposed to go to 463 low-income households in Abu, Japan
  • The individual initially agreed to pay all the money back, but subsequently vanished
  • The Abu Municipal Government is now suing the man for ¥51m ($394,790)
  • Local media reports say the man gambled the cash away through offshore online casinos
Japan cash
A Japanese man gambled away ¥46.3m ($358,000) worth of COVID-19 relief funds that he accidentally received. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

A big payday for one man

A Japanese man accidentally received ¥46.3m ($358,000) worth of COVID-19 relief funds and spent it gambling online. The 24-year-old received the cash that was supposed to go to 463 low-income households in the Japanese town of Abu.

all the funds went to a single individual’s bank account

The government ran a support scheme to help households handle pandemic-related hardship by giving them ¥100,000 ($774) each. However, an error from a town official in April meant all the funds went to a single individual’s bank account. The recipient’s name was on the top of the list of eligible households. While the man initially told authorities that he would return all of the money, he subsequently vanished.

Following an investigation, authorities discovered that he had withdrawn most of the funds over a two-week period. Eventually, the man admitted that the money was all gone, saying: “I’ve already moved the money. It can’t be returned. It cannot be undone anymore. I will not run. I will pay for my crime.”

Investigators found out he had quit his job and gone on the run. According to media reports, the man has since gambled the cash away through apps on his phone.

Officials take action

On Monday, someone claiming to be the man’s lawyer held a press conference. He alleged that he did not know the current whereabouts of his client but had communicated with him. The Abu Municipal Government is now suing the individual for ¥51m ($394,790), which will cover the stolen funds and legal costs. Officials are also preparing a criminal complaint.

I want him to return it, it’s not too late”

The local mayor issued an apology to residents over the issue. Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada also questioned how all of the money could have been gambled away so quickly, saying: “We want to trace the flow of the money in the lawsuit. I want him to return it, it’s not too late.”

Lost through online casinos

There are no licensed online casinos in Japan, with local residents using offshore online casinos if they want to play casino games. According to local media reports, the man lost all of the money by gambling through numerous offshore online casinos.

These reports have also suggested the man intends to pay back the cash “little by little” after apologizing for spending it. Households in Abu, which is a part of the Yamaguchi Prefecture, have since received a payment of ¥100,000 ($774).

There have been many cases of people and businesses fraudulently taking advantage of pandemic-related government support schemes across the world since the beginning of the outbreak. In the UK, unwitting victims lost an estimated £4bn ($4.96bn) worth of loans to fraudsters during the pandemic.

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