Photo/Illutration The town of Abu's government building, where an official accidentally sent COVID-19 subsidy funds of 46.3 million yen to just one recipient (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

ABU, Yamaguchi Prefecture--The town of Abu filed a lawsuit with a district court on May 12 demanding a resident return a whopping 46.3 million yen ($356,656) in COVID-19 financial aid deposited in his account by mistake and pay legal fees. 

But the 24-year-old man who received the remittance has refused to pay it back, according to town officials.

"We will do our utmost to take back the large amount of public money that is important for our residents,” Mayor Norihiko Hanada said after a town assembly meeting on May 12, where a motion to file a civil suit had passed unanimously.

Officials filed the lawsuit for restitution later that same day with the Hagi Branch of the Yamaguchi District Court, demanding payment of about 51.16 million yen, including legal fees.

Town officials said the man had moved there from another part of the prefecture in October 2020. He lived alone in Abu while working at a store in the prefecture, although the man recently resigned from his job.

Officials said his whereabouts are currently unknown and they have been unable to contact him.

The central government has provided the temporary special cash benefit to households exempt from resident tax to help those struggling due to the economic hardships brought about by the pandemic. The payment itself, though, is made from municipalities.

The financial foul-up occurred on April 8, when the town sent subsidy payments of 100,000 yen to 463 households. But it separately transferred 46.3 million yen to just one of those households accidentally.

The officials realized the mistake immediately. That same day, they contacted the man and his bank. They visited him again on April 21 to move forward the process to return the money.

“All the funds had been transferred to an account at another financial institution,” he reportedly told them. “I cannot return the money back to the original account. I will make amends for my crime.”

An investigation revealed that more than 600,000 yen was withdrawn from his account the day he received the 46.3 million yen, officials said.

The rest of the funds was frequently transferred to other bank accounts for electronic card payments and other purposes. Almost all the money disappeared from his account within about two weeks.