Japanese man arrested in Indonesia for COVID aid fraud

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Authorities on the southern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra have arrested a Japanese fugitive accused of fraud in Japan in connection with receiving a huge amount of COVID-19 grants for small businesses in need, police said on Wednesday.

Mitsuhiro Taniguchi, 47, was arrested late Tuesday in Kalirejo village in Central Lampung district by immigration officers and supported by local police, National Police spokesman Dedi Prasetyo said.

Taniguchi was wanted by Japanese police for pandemic subsidy fraud and left Japan for Indonesia in October 2020, Prasetyo said.

Taniguchi and a group of acquaintances reportedly submitted some 1,700 false applications for COVID-19 relief funds. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department believes they received grants worth an estimated 960 million yen ($7.3 million) in more than 960 of those applications.

He said there was no warning related to Taniguchi’s case, but Indonesian police have taken proactive steps by coordinating with immigration to detect his presence since he entered Indonesian territory.

“His presence in Indonesia became illegal after the Japanese authorities revoked his passport,” Prasetyo said, adding that Taniguchi has been handed over to the Immigration Directorate’s Surveillance and Enforcement Department and that the authorities are coordinating a deportation process with Japanese diplomats.

Tokyo police arrested Taniguchi’s ex-wife and their two sons on May 30 on suspicion of fraud and the Tokyo MPD placed him on an international wanted list, according to the Japanese newspaper The Mainichi Shimbun. It said the three are suspected of defrauding the government of 3 million yen ($22,500) in COVID-19 subsidies from June to August 2020.

The scheme was discovered in August 2020 when the office offering the grants consulted with Tokyo police. Taniguchi is believed to have fled Japan two months later, reports the Japanese newspaper The Asahi Shimbun.

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