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West Japan household says it can't return 46.3 mil. yen in wrongly paid COVID subsidy

This file photo shows 100,000 yen in cash. (Mainichi/Kazuhisa Soneda)

ABU, Yamaguchi -- The recipient of 46.3 million yen (about $360,400) in coronavirus subsidies that this western Japan town mistakenly paid into a household bank account says they can't return the money, the town revealed on April 22.

    The mishap occurred under the Japanese government's scheme to distribute handouts of 100,000-yen (approx. $780) to low-income households exempt from residential taxes to support families affected by the pandemic. The town of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture was supposed to pay the subsidies to 463 households.

    According to the town, a treasury official on April 1 handed a bank data listing the names of 463 households that had applied for the subsidies so it could transfer 100,000 yen to each of their designated bank accounts. Five days later, the same town official mistakenly submitted a money transfer form printed out at the town hall to the bank, which only contained one household as the recipient. As a result, that one household received all the money that was supposed to go to the 463 households, separate from the 100,000 yen that was legitimately theirs.

    The applicant of this household initially expressed their intention to return the excess money, but then the town became unable to contact them. When the town was finally able to reach them on the night of April 21, the applicant apparently said, "The money has already been moved elsewhere and can't be returned. I'm not going to run and I'm willing to pay for my wrongdoing."

    Since the town doesn't have the authority to check the money transfers and withdrawals from the person's bank account, the town is consulting Yamaguchi Prefectural Police as well as lawyers. Town Mayor Norihiko Hanada told reporters at an April 22 news conference, "It's extremely regrettable. We'll make our utmost efforts to deal with the situation."

    (Japanese original by Yasuhisa Yamamoto, Yamaguchi Bureau)

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