TOKYO — A 47-year-old man suspected of fraudulently receiving around 1 billion yen ($7.4 million) in government COVID-19 subsidies was arrested Wednesday after he was sent back to Japan from Indonesia, an investigative source said.
Indonesian immigration authorities nabbed Mitsuhiro Taniguchi earlier this month on suspicion of overstaying his visa. He had left for Indonesia in October 2020, and Japanese police put him on a wanted list.
The suspect is believed to have led a group whose members included his former wife and eldest son. They are suspected of submitting about 1,780 false subsidy applications from May 2020 to September of the year, according to Tokyo’s Metropolitan Police Department.
The roughly 1 billion yen allegedly swindled by the group is the largest amount illicitly received by a single group in connection with the subsidy program for businesses, according to the police.
The group collected fake applicants for the subsidies via social media or by holding seminars. The suspect’s former wife, Rie, 45, and their son Daiki, 22, allegedly took care of relevant paperwork to earn up to hundreds of thousands of yen in rewards in each case.
The group is believed to have used the names of individuals and firms in 36 prefectures on applications.
Police have already arrested Taniguchi’s family members, including his separated wife. On Wednesday, police also arrested a 34-year-old male group member on suspicion of fraud, the investigative source said.
Taniguchi was caught by Indonesian authorities on June 7 while in a village in the southernmost province of Lampung on Sumatra Island. He had invested in a villager’s gourami fish farm, according to the village head.
Lampung is famous for its gourami, a freshwater fish popular among Indonesians.