City in western Japan sues man for refusing to return $359,000 in improperly paid COVID grants

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

ABU, Yamaguchi — The government of this western Japanese city has sued a man demanding he return all of the 46.3 million yen (about $359,000) in coronavirus grants the city mistakenly paid into his household’s bank account, after refusing to comply with the municipality’s request for reimbursement.

The Abu Municipal Government filed a lawsuit with the Hagi Branch of the Yamaguchi District Court on May 12 against the 24-year-old man who is the head of his house. The mishandled 46.3 million yen was worth the amount for 463 households to which the city was supposed to pay the subsidies under the Japanese government’s program to distribute aid of 100,000 yen (about $770) to low-income households exempt from housing taxes to support families. affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Abu Municipal Assembly unanimously passed a bill to take the case to court in an ad hoc meeting on the morning of May 12. According to the city’s briefing at the meeting, the city government had asked the man to return the money since April 8, when the funds were mistakenly paid into his family account, explaining the circumstances. . A family member later joined the discussion with the city office, and at one point the man expressed his intention to return the money. However, when a city official contacted him on April 21, the man told them, “I have already moved the money. It cannot be returned.

It was later revealed that the man had withdrawn almost all of the 46.3 million yen in less than two weeks after the money was deposited into his family account. The city has since lost contact with him.

“We want the money to be refunded, even if the refund should be made now, because it comes from our people’s precious public funds,” Mayor of Abu Norihiko Hanada told reporters at the close of the council meeting. municipal. He revealed that the town hall had consulted with the Yamaguchi Prefectural Police with a view to filing a criminal complaint against the man.

The incident happened when the city was supposed to pay a total of 46.3 million yen to 463 households, including the man’s household. The city office said it has since been inundated with criticism of the fiasco.

“If we fail to collect the money, it would be a huge burden for this city with an annual budget of about 2 billion yen ($15.5 million) to cover the costs of the general account, and I sense responsible for the matter,” Mayor Hanada said apologetically.

When a reporter from Mainichi Shimbun visited the man at his residential address in the city, there was no response to their call.

With more than a month having passed since the mispayment, there are growing calls for the problem to be resolved in Abu. A man in his 60s told the Mainichi Shimbun, “I don’t like the city becoming notorious for its money problems. Although it’s better if the money is returned as soon as possible, I hope the problem will be solved without any harm to the city or to the man, no matter how long it takes.” A resident in her 60s appeared bewildered at the incident and said, “The amount of money (paid by mistake) is so huge that it’s hard to get an idea. It’s inconceivable.”

(Japanese original by Satoshi Kondo, Hagi Local Bureau, and Nanako Hori, Yamaguchi Bureau)