A western Japanese town that mistakenly sent 46.3 million yen ($363,000) in COVID-19 relief money to a resident has legally recovered about 43 million yen, or about 90 percent of it, the mayor said Tuesday.
The 24-year-old resident, Sho Taguchi, has been arrested for alleged computer fraud after failing to return the money to the town of Abu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, telling his lawyer he had used it all on online casinos overseas.
Of the total amount the town has recovered so far, over 35 million yen was returned by a domestic payment processing agent, according to a source familiar with the case.
Taguchi had wired about 35.92 million yen to the company, or most of the roughly 42.92 million yen he had wired to three payment processing firms, his lawyer said.
The municipal government had erroneously sent the funds to his bank account on April 8, on top of the 100,000 yen it had distributed to each of the 463 low-income households in the town in COVID relief money.
"The origin of the case was an error by a town clerk," Mayor Norihiko Hanada said at a press conference on Tuesday as he offered his apology to town residents and Taguchi.
Taguchi was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of transferring 4 million yen of the funds to the account of a payment processing agent through an online settlement service and illegally profiting from it.
He has told investigators that he spent the money on online casinos.
Between April 8 and 19, Taguchi had moved around 46.33 million yen out of his bank account. Some of the money had been used for debit transactions.
A lawyer representing the municipal government said efforts to collect the money began as soon as it learned of the mistake on April 8, including contacting a bank for possible collection. No money used for debit transactions has been returned.
The town -- facing the Sea of Japan with a population of around 3,000 people -- has sued Taguchi for around 51.15 million yen, including legal fees.
Taguchi's lawyer agreed to the process of returning the funds but plans to contest the demand for legal fees.