The Japanese man, who was mistakenly sent 46.3 million yen (287,000 pounds / 358,000 US dollars) in aid funds from Covid-19, admitted that he played the full amount in two weeks.
An unnamed 24-year-old boy was sent a sum in April as part of a local government program to help residents who were experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.
But instead of sending him the right amount – ¥ 100,000 (£ 621 / US $ 774) – the government of the city of Abu in western Japan transferred money intended for all 463 low-income families to his bank account, according to Japanese media.
After local officials realized their mistake, on May 12, they filed a lawsuit demanding an immediate refund plus court costs, but apparently were unable to contact the recipient.
The man, who reportedly lived alone and recently quit his job while working in a store, agreed to return the cash, but then without explanation explained that they had been “withdrawn” from his account.
Records showed that he withdrew all the money from his bank account between April 8 and 21.
This week, his lawyer said he used his mobile phone to play the full amount on online casino sites, adding that it would be “difficult” for his client to get his money back because he has no assets.
Mayor Abu Narihik Hamad called the man’s actions “unforgivable” and said the city would do everything possible to return the money.
The man’s lawyer said the parties were trying to resolve the dispute, but legal experts say the city is unlikely to recoup the losses.
“Even if the city wins the lawsuit and seeks to confiscate assets, if a person does not have them, it will be difficult to get the money back,” said Hisashi Sonoda, an honored professor of criminal law at Conan University in Kobe, in an interview with Mainichi. Shymbun.
Sanoda said the man’s actions were “morally questionable”, but added that prosecution could be problematic, given that the right of people to withdraw money from their accounts is recognized by Japan’s Civil Code.
Reports say 100,000 yen has since been sent to each of the households that missed the initial payments.