Photo/Illutration Norihiko Hanada, mayor of Abu, Yamaguchi Prefecture, left, and the town’s lawyer, right, hold a news conference at the town’s offices on May 24 to say that it has recovered most of the money it sent to a lone resident by mistake. (Michiya Ofuji)

ABU, Yamaguchi Prefecture--The town of Abu has now recovered almost 43 million yen ($336,896) of the 46.3 million yen it accidentally sent to a single resident’s bank account, its mayor said on May 24.

At a news conference at Abu’s municipal office, Mayor Norihiko Hanada and the town’s lawyer announced that 42,993,434 yen was recovered from the three online payment service agencies the resident had sent the funds to.

“We legally recovered (the money) through means including seizures of the bank accounts of the three companies (the online payment service agencies) under the National Tax Collection Law, but not through settlements or negotiations,” the lawyer said at the May 24 news conference.

Hanada also apologized for the clerical error that caused the costly mishap.

A town official had accidentally sent 46.3 million yen to Sho Taguchi, 24, on April 8 while sending out pandemic-relief subsidies of 100,000 yen each to 463 households exempt from residence tax.

According to his lawyer, Taguchi moved the money out of his bank account through a series of transfers from April 8 to April 18, sending it to three domestic online payment service agencies believed to have business ties with online casino sites.

Taguchi had eventually transferred almost all the mistakenly remitted funds from his account. He later informed his lawyer he had blown all the money on overseas casino websites.

According to the town's lawyer, the town identified the postal addresses of the three companies, which are all located in Tokyo. On May 19, town officials visited these companies and gave each of them written notices that said legal authorities would seize their properties and collect the money from them.

After this, each of the three companies returned to the town’s bank account amounts that were the same as those Taguchi had transferred to them.

Prefectural police arrested Taguchi on May 18 on suspicion of committing computer fraud by transferring 4 million yen from the funds to one of these online payment service companies using his smartphone, despite knowing the money was sent to his account by mistake.

After the town sued him to recover all the missing funds, Taguchi’s lawyer took the necessary legal steps to confirm that he would accept the demand and willingly return them, although he added it was not likely to be easily resolved.

“Taguchi has nothing of financial value at his disposal,” his lawyer said at the time. “Therefore, realistically, it’s difficult to pay back the money.”