Japanese man who gambles $350,000 of stolen COVID-19 Funds found guilty

In April of last year, a Japanese man from Western Japan accidentally transferred 46.3 million yen, (over $350,000), intended for a COVID-19 relief fund, instead of the intended 100,000 yen. Sho Taguchi, a 25-year-old man from Western Japan’s Abu area, received the money and instead of returning it, transferred it to a second account to gamble at an online casino. He was recently sentenced to probation for computer fraud.

What caused the mistake in the COVID Relief Fund Transfer?

The error in the distribution of COVID-19 relief funds occurred when a town official submitted a transfer request for the total amount of 46.3 million yen to Sho Taguchi, whose name was listed at the top, instead of transferring 100,000 yen to each of the 463 low-income households in Abu, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Regrettably, the entire sum was credited to Taguchi’s account in error. Despite receiving such a large sum of money, Taguchi did not notify the bank or the town, but rather transferred the funds to another account and used them to gamble at an online casino without questioning their source.

Sho Taguchi sentenced to suspended prison term

Sho Taguchi was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended for five years, for computer fraud. Taguchi’s defense contended throughout the trial that he was not compelled to submit the error to the bank because the town had already alerted the bank of the error and thus had the right to transfer the money. The prosecution referenced a Supreme Court judgment that considered accepting the money without notifying the bank of the error to be fraudulent behavior and argued Taguchi’s actions amounted to computer fraud.

Taguchi received a suspended sentence instead of the four-and-a-half-year prison sentence proposed by the prosecution. The judge based the suspended sentence on Taguchi’s confession of regret and the full return of the money. In his verdict, the judge stated that Taguchi had committed a felony in order to gamble at online casinos and had demonstrated contempt for the law. His defense team is still attempting to have him acquitted and has filed an appeal.

Legal landscape of gambling in Japan

In Japan, the only forms of legal gambling are limited to Pachinko and certain sports betting, such as horse racing and boat racing. However, the Japanese government has recently passed the Integrated Resort Development Promotion Bill, which allows the establishment of resorts with casino facilities in specifically designated areas. These integrated resorts aim to attract foreign visitors and offer various non-gambling experiences and activities, in addition to gambling facilities. The government plans to open the first integrated resort casinos in 2025.

In an effort to prevent problem gambling, the government has also implemented measures such as giving citizens a three-time visit allowance to a casino resort per week or eight times per month. This move is aimed at limiting access to gambling facilities and promoting responsible gambling among the Japanese people.

Despite the restrictions on gambling, residents of Japan can still access and play at online casinos in Japanese. Currently, there is no specific legislation that prohibits online gambling in Japan, but it is important to note that players must ensure that they are using a reputable and licensed online casino to ensure the safety and fairness of their gaming experience.

Final thoughts

The case has also brought to light the need for more education and awareness about responsible gaming. Notwithstanding gambling regulations in Japan, many people still deal with compulsive gambling and its effects. As a result, the government has underlined the importance of increased education and awareness about responsible gambling habits, as well as the implementation of measures aimed at restricting access to gaming facilities.

The Sho Taguchi affair serves as a warning of the penalties for fraudulent behavior and the need of playing responsibly. The judgment in Taguchi’s case emphasizes the seriousness of fraudulent behavior and the importance of individuals acting properly when dealing with significant sums of money, particularly when it is intended for a public relief fund.

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