In a bizarre incident, a Japanese man who was accidentally paid 46.3 million yen (nearly $358,000) in COVID-19 relief money has said that he cannot return it because he already gambled it away.
According to the BBC, the 24-year-old man, whose identity has not been revealed, received the money in his bank account from a COVID-19 relief fund that was supposed to be shared among 463 people. Initially, he had said that he would co-operate with officials, however, he has since vanished. The municipal authorities in the southern town of Abu in Japan's Yamaguchi Prefecture are now suing the man and also considering criminal action.
The 463 low-income households in Japan were meant to receive 10,000 yen ($770) each as part of a government scheme to ease the financial strain caused by the pandemic. But all of the funding - 46.3 million yen - was mistakenly deposited into the man's personal bank account.
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The BBC reported that the man withdrew 600,000 yen every day for about two weeks. And when the authorities finally contacted him, he stated that he did not have the money, but would cooperate with the police.
"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,” he had said as per the media outlet.
Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, his lawyer, on the other hand, stated that his client had been cooperating with authorities and agreed to be interviewed by prefecture police. But as per BBC, since the lawsuit was filed against him on May 12, officials have not been able to contact him.
His lawyer explained that the man used his smartphone to gamble away all of the money through online casino sites. He added that the 24-year-old lives alone and is the only person involved in the matter. "I don't currently have the money and I don't have anything with property value at hand. It's actually difficult to return it," the lawyer quoted him as saying.
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Following the incident, Mayor Norihiko Hanada told residents that he is “deeply sorry” for the mistake and that his office will do its utmost to take back the large amount of public money. Mr Hanada also informed that a second round of payments of 100,000 yen has now been issued to the eligible households.