YAMAGUCHI, Japan (Kyodo) -- A man in western Japan who received 46.3 million yen ($358,000) in COVID-19 relief money from his town by mistake before gambling it all away is now contrite and wants to pay it back "little by little," according to a person familiar with the case.
The 24-year-old resident of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture had earlier refused to return the money, and, according to this person, said he spent all the money in several overseas internet casinos.
The man now says he is "sorry for using the money" and intends to repay it, the person said. But his lawyer said at a press conference Monday that he was unlikely to be able to pay it back.
Last Thursday, the town sued the resident for around 51 million yen, including legal fees. It is also preparing to lodge a criminal complaint against him.
On the man's claim that he used all the money on gambling, Norihiko Hanada, the mayor of Abu, expressed surprise earlier. "We want to trace the flow of the money in the lawsuit. I want him to return it, it's not too late."
On April 6, after procedures to transfer 100,000 yen in COVID-19 relief money to each of the 463 low-income households in Abu had been completed, a town official mistakenly submitted to a financial institution a single transfer request of 46.3 million yen to the man. His name was at the top of the list.
The entire amount was transferred to the man's bank account on April 8.