Man gambles away town’s $500k Covid relief

A man wrongly given a fortune in Covid payments says he gambled it away in a fortnight before authorities caught wind.

A Japanese man given more than half a million dollars in Covid-19 aid by mistake has been arrested after saying he gambled away the money online, police said Thursday.

Local authorities had become increasingly desperate to get their money back from the 24-year-old, who has said he will return the cash “even if it‘s going to be bit by bit”.

The blunder by authorities in the remote town of Abu on the nation’s west coast and the man’s failure to pay them back has sparked outrage in Japan, with talk shows discussing the intricacies of his financial situation.

He was transferred the 46.3-million-yen ($A517,000) lump sum in error last month by officials who were organising cash handouts for low-income residents affected by the pandemic.

He received all the cash that was supposed to be divided between 463 local households.

After visits, calls and letters failed to convince the man to repay the money, authorities filed a lawsuit last week in an attempt to get it back.

The man is now in custody after being arrested “on suspicion of violating computer fraud laws”, an officer at the police department of western Japan’s Yamaguchi region told AFP.

The man told police he had spent the illicit windfall at online casinos on his phone, and is suspected of moving some of the money to a different account even though he was aware of the mistake.

Abu mayor Norihiko Hanada told reporters on Thursday that the arrest marks “a step towards the truth”.

“I don‘t believe outright (that he used it all), and I think it’s possible (there’s money) somewhere,” he said.


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