A 47-year-old Japanese man wanted by Tokyo police on suspicion of fraudulently receiving government COVID-19 subsidies along with his family members has been arrested in Indonesia, immigration authorities said Wednesday.
Mitsuhiro Taniguchi is suspected of defrauding the government of more than 960 million yen ($7.22 million) using a subsidy program for smaller firms reeling from the pandemic. Taniguchi's whereabouts were unknown after leaving Japan for Indonesia in October 2020.
He was arrested Tuesday night in the village of Sri Dadi in Lampung Province after Japan revoked his passport, according to I Nyoman Gede Surya Mataram, a senior official at the Directorate General of Immigration.
Taniguchi is believed to have led a group involving at least 10 people, including his former wife and two sons. The group is suspected of submitting about 1,780 false subsidy applications from May 2020 to September of the year, according to Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department.
The amount of public money involved is the most illicitly received by a single group in connection with the subsidy program, according to the department, which arrested Taniguchi's former wife and two sons in late May on suspicion of fraud.
The Tokyo police department said it is coordinating with Indonesian authorities to bring Taniguchi back to Japan.
Sri Dadi village head Suroso Adi Saputro said Taniguchi was chatting at the house of Masduki, a villager, when immigration officials and police came to arrest the Japanese national.
According to Suroso, Taniguchi invested in Masduki's gourami fish farm. Lampung is famous for its gourami, a freshwater fish commodity popular among Indonesians.
"He (Masduki) was shocked to find out that the good Japanese man he had been dealing with so far was actually wanted by the Japanese police for a criminal case," Suroso, 43, told Kyodo News in an interview.
The group collected fake applicants for the subsidies via social networks or by holding seminars. It then took care of the relevant paperwork to earn up to hundreds of thousands of yen in rewards in each case, according to investigators.
In a press conference in Jakarta, also attended by Taniguchi, Mataram said a few months after entering Indonesia, the Japanese man obtained a limited stay permit that would expire next year.
But he said the permit became automatically invalid after Japanese authorities revoked his passport.
"After receiving the request to search for MT, we coordinated with police to find his whereabouts and received information that he had been seen around Lampung," Mataram said.
A senior official at the Lampung immigration office also said during the press conference that Taniguchi was in Lampung as a "foreign investor" who wanted to invest in fish and shrimp businesses.