Over 3,000 people identified in COVID-19 subsidy fraud

Japan's law enforcement authorities have identified a number of suspected fraud cases related to a government relief subsidy for businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Police say that as of April 30, they identified 3,655 people nationwide who they suspect were involved in fraud, including making false claims about eligibility for the program. Tax accountants, tax office workers and other people with specialized knowledge were among them.

Police say that the damage they have confirmed so far has amounted to 3.18 billion yen, or approximately 24.5 million dollars.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry says 4.24 million applications have so far been approved for the subsidies, and 5.5 trillion yen, or more than 42.3 billion dollars, have been handed out.

Police late last month arrested a 45-year-old company executive and her two sons in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, on suspicion of illegally receiving about 23,000 dollars through the coronavirus-related government subsidy program.

The police say that the suspects posed as business owners and applied for subsidies in 2020, claiming that their revenues had dropped sharply due to the pandemic. The woman's former husband has also been put on a nationwide wanted list.

The four are also believed to have submitted fraudulent applications using identities of company and restaurant employees.

It has emerged that they held seminars at restaurants and other venues across the country with dozens of acquaintances to collect these names.

Investigative sources say the suspects had received around 1,000 to 3,000 dollars in handling fees from each of the people who gave their names after the subsidies were paid.

Police believe the suspects submitted more than 1,700 false applications and claimed roughly 7.4 million dollars.