A Japanese man is alleged to have gambled away a Covid relief fund that was intended to be shared between 463 people.
The 24-year-old is said to have received 46.3 million yen, which is the equivalent of just over £287,000. However, the recipient reportedly gambled all of it away on his phone, using several online casino sites.
While he initially agreed to cooperate with authorities, the man in question has since vanished.
Criminal action is now being considered against him, while a lawsuit is already underway by the town of Abu in the south of Japan.
It's in Abu where 463 low-income households would have received the vitally important 100,000 yen (£620) having been badly affected by the pandemic.
However, local reports revealed on Monday that all 46.3 million of the funding was deposited into one man's personal bank account on April 8, BBC News reports.
They also alleged that the man withdrew around 600,000 yen from the account every day for a fortnight.
By the time the authorities contacted him, he claimed the money was all gone.
"I've already moved the money. It can't be returned," he is quoted as saying. "It cannot be undone any more. I will not run. I will pay for my crime."
The unidentified individual's lawyer told the media that his client had agreed to be interviewed by local police.
However, that appears to have changed since the lawsuit was filed, as he hasn't been heard from publicly since.
The suit in total, filed by the Abu Municipal Government, is for 51 million yen – plus any legal fees that may accrue.
"I don't currently have the money and I don't have anything with property value at hand. It's actually difficult to return it," his personal lawyer quoted him as saying, according to BBC News.
Mayor Norihiko Hanada has informed residents he is 'deeply sorry' for the error, and his office 'will do our utmost to take back the large amount of public money'.
The story isn't the only case of Covid relief money allegedly being misused in Japan.
This time last year, the seaside town of Noto drew criticism for using funds from an emergency Covid-19 relief grant to build a giant statue of a squid.
According to BBC News, 25 million yen (£164,700) was used to construct the 13 metre-long squid – which is a local delicacy.
For help, support and advice about problem gambling, contact the National Gambling Helpline anytime on 0808 8020 133
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