Alleged mastermind of COVID-19 subsidy scam arrested after returning from Dubai

Japanese police have arrested a man alleged to be the mastermind behind a coronavirus subsidy scam after he returned from Dubai.

Police say Matsue Daiki fraudulently collected the subsidy in 2020 by falsely having another person claim that business income had drastically fallen due to the pandemic. The 31-year-old suspect left for Dubai in February this year.

Matsue is believed to have belonged to a group that allegedly carried out the fraud scheme. The group is suspected to have used the Line messenger app to instruct university students and other youths how to fraudulently obtain the subsidies.

Police suspect that Matsue collected about 80 percent of the subsidies those young people received, and invested the money in crypto-assets.

Police say the group may have fraudulently received 200 million yen, or roughly 1.5 million dollars, in subsidies.

Investigators say Matsue has not admitted to or denied the charges. They quote him as saying he will talk to them after consulting with a lawyer.

Nine members of the group were arrested, including a 24-year-old employee of a tax bureau. Seven of them have seen their cases sent to prosecutors.