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H.I.S. firms, hotel chain barred from Japan gov't travel subsidy program over alleged fraud

A "Go To Travel" campaign poster is seen in Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward in this Nov. 29, 2020 file photo. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

TOKYO -- Two subsidiaries of travel giant H.I.S. Co. plus a hotel firm will be barred from participating in the government's "Go To Travel" domestic tourism subsidy campaign when it restarts over strong suspicions they defrauded the program, Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Tetsuo Saito told a Dec. 28 press conference.

    Saito also stated that the government would demand that H.I.S. firms Miki Tourist Co. and Japan Holiday Travel Co., and Tokyo-based hotel chain operator JHAT Co. return any illicitly obtained subsidies, and that criminal complaints were being considered.

    "This is a taxpayer-funded program, and fraudulently taking the subsidies is absolutely unforgivable," Saito told reporters following a Cabinet meeting. "It is truly deplorable."

    On the same day, the government issued a severe warning to H.I.S. over its lack of corporate governance as a parent firm. Authorities have apparently directed H.I.S. to formulate a reform policy.

    On the illicit subsidy claims, an H.I.S. investigative panel announced on Dec. 24 that Miki Tourist and Japan Holiday Travel, plus JHAT, had defrauded the Go To Travel program by a total of some 683 million yen (about $5.9 million) in faked hotel stays.

    The Go To Travel subsidy campaign was launched in July 2020 to promote domestic tourism as foreign visitor numbers plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was suspended in December the same year amid rising COVID-19 case numbers.

    (Japanese original by Hajime Nakatsugawa, Business News Department)

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