Man mistakenly sent 46.3 mil. yen in COVID funds gambles it all away

A 24-year-old man mistakenly sent 46.3 million yen ($360,000) in COVID-19 relief money by the western Japan town he resides in, says he gambled it all away on overseas casino sites, sources close to the matter said Tuesday.

The man is unlikely to be able to return the money transferred to him in error by the town of Abu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, according to his lawyer, who said a resolution through litigation is being considered.

Abu Mayor Norihiko Hanada speaks to reporters on May 12, 2022, at the Abu town office in Yamaguchi Prefecture, western Japan. (Kyodo)

Speaking at a press conference Monday, the lawyer said the man had told him that he had moved the money out of his account using his smartphone. The lawyer said that the man lives alone and no one else is believed to be involved in the matter.

Last Thursday, the town sued the man for around 51 million yen for the full return of the funds plus legal fees. According to the town, the man had refused to return the money, saying it was “moved from my account and cannot be returned. I will atone for my sins.”

The man’s lawyer has refuted claims that he became unreachable after the town filed the lawsuit against him, saying that police had kept his phone following voluntary questioning in April and May.

On April 6, after procedures to transfer 100,000 yen in COVID-19 relief money to each of the 463 low-income households in Abu had been completed, a town official mistakenly submitted a single transfer request to a financial institution for 46.3 million yen for the man whose name was at the top of the list.

The entire amount was transferred to the man’s bank account on April 8.