YAMAGUCHI - A man in western Japan, who received 46.3 million yen ($359,000) in COVID-19 relief money from his town by mistake before gambling it all away, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of computer fraud, police said.
Sho Taguchi, a 24-year-old resident of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture, is accused of spending the money despite knowing it was mistakenly transferred to him, and had earlier refused to return it to officials.
According to a person familiar with the case, Taguchi spent all the money in several overseas internet casinos.
He has admitted to the allegation, the police said.
Taguchi previously said he was "sorry for using the money" and intended to repay it, the person said. But his lawyer said at a press conference Monday that he was unlikely to be able to pay it back.
Last Thursday, the town sued Taguchi for around 51 million yen, including legal fees. It is also preparing to lodge a criminal complaint against him.
On Taguchi's claim that he lost all the money on gambling, Norihiko Hanada, the mayor of Abu, expressed surprise earlier. "We want to trace the flow of the money in the lawsuit. I want him to return it, it's not too late."
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 to a financial institution a single transfer request of 46.3 million yen to Taguchi, whose name was at the top of the list.
The entire amount was transferred to Taguchi's bank account on April 8.