Japanese man gambles away millions after he is mistakenly paid 463 people’s Covid relief

·2-min read

A Japanese man who was erroneously paid 46.3m yen (£287,000) as Covid relief by municipal authorities has said he cannot return the money — because he already gambled it away.

Authorities in the Abu town of Yamaguchi Prefecture have sued the 24-year-old for 51m yen, including legal fees, according to local news reports. Officials have not disclosed the man’s identity.

His lawyer said at a press conference on Monday that the man had used his smartphone to gamble away all of the money through online casino sites. He added that the man lives alone and is the only person involved in the matter.

On 8 April, authorities in Abu town mistakenly deposited 46.3m yen to the 24-year-old’s personal account instead of the 463 low-income households which were meant to receive 100,000 yen each as part of a government scheme for Covid-induced financial strain relief.

Local media reports said that the man withdrew 600,000 yen every day for about two weeks.

When authorities finally contacted him, he said that he did not have the money, but that he would cooperate with the police.

Yet the authorities now believe that the man has fled and say he has not been contactable since the town filed a case against him, according to a BBC News report.

His lawyer has denied the allegation and said that the police had kept the man’s phone following voluntary questioning in April and May.

Abu mayor Norihiko Hanada has apologised to residents and said that he is “deeply sorry” for the mistake and that his office “will do our utmost to take back the large amount of public money”.

A second round of payments of 100,000 yen has been issued to the eligible households.

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