Like in many countries, every once in a while the government sees fit to send out a bit of cash to Japanese households during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an effort to keep the economy moving. Earlier this month this was the case in the town of Abu in Yamaguchi Prefecture.
In this small town of about 3,300 people, 463 households applied for a payment of 100,000 yen. However, 462 of those households never received their money, because it all went to a single resident’s bank account.
According to town officials, a staff member made a technical error in the system when processing applications which caused all 46.3 million yen to go to the same bank account. Officials contacted the home of the recipient but by the time they got in touch, the person said that all the funds had been “transferred to an account at another financial institution.”
It’s unclear exactly what that meant. The person explained that the money was not used to repay debt, but gave few other clues as to where it went. They simply told officials: “It cannot be undone any more. I will not run. I will pay for my crime…”
However cryptically noble that may be, it still left the town with little to work with. On April 22, Abu mayor Norihiko Hanada issued a public apology and the town sent another wave of 100,000 payments to each of the 463 households, including the one that had previously received the 46.3 million yen.
▼ News report of the apology
It’s was such a spectacular failure that most comments by readers expressed amusement rather than anger. The most common question among them was how this person could so quickly make so much money disappear.
“That’s horrible, lol.”
“What did he do with it?”
“He’s got it in cash in his drawers, I’m sure. Someone get a warrant!”
“They can’t even return a bit of it? I want to know what happened to the money.”
“I think they should be trying harder to get the money.”
“I wonder if he hid it somewhere so he can use it after serving a prison sentence.”
“The official who screwed up sending the money is at fault too.”
“Maybe he’s trying to make a profit off the money before he’s forced to return it. It’s very possible with that much.”
“Of all the people to mistakenly send a bunch of money to, they had to find the one guy who would immediately launder it.”
Indeed, in Japan it would seem that in such a situation you’d be more likely to have the person return the money rather than mysteriously make it vanish. There’s certainly no shortage of people who simply think returning the money is the right thing to do, and the remainder would likely realize that there was no chance of getting away with pocketing millions of yen sent directly from the government.
In the meantime the government is currently consulting with police and lawyers to see what options they have in this odd situation. Hopefully an ensuing investigation will reveal what this person is thinking and how they plan to deal with the impending criminal charges.
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