Japan suspect in COVID relief fraud deported by Indonesia

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese man accused of participating in a fraud scheme that netted about 1 billion yen ($7.3 million) in government funds intended for small Japanese businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday after being deported by Indonesia, where he fled more than a year and a half ago.

Mitsuhiro Taniguchi, 47, was arrested on board the flight by Japanese police who accompanied him, and was transported to a police station for interrogation after landing at Tokyo’s Narita airport, Japanese media said. Police said they could not immediately confirm the reports.

Indonesian immigration official Douglas Simamora said earlier Wednesday that Taniguchi was deported after his passport was revoked by the Japanese government and he had no residence permit.

Indonesian authorities arrested Taniguchi on June 4 at a house owned by a fish trader in Indonesia’s Lampung province. During his stay there, he described himself as an investor interested in fisheries. Indonesian authorities are investigating whether other people in that country were involved in the fraud scheme linked to Taniguchi.

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Taniguchi and a group of acquaintances allegedly submitted about 1,700 false applications for COVID-19 relief funds to the Japanese government and illegally received subsidies on more than 960 of those applications, defrauding about 1 billion yen ($7.3 million), reports say.

Police arrested Taniguchi’s ex-wife and their two sons — believed to be part of a larger group — in May on fraud allegations and were preparing to place Taniguchi on an international wanted list, according to Japanese media. The three suspects allegedly defrauded the government of 3 million yen ($22,500) in COVID-19 subsidies from June to August 2020.

The case surfaced in August 2020 when the office offering the subsidies consulted with Tokyo police. Taniguchi entered Indonesia two months later on a visa for investors.

Jatmiko and Tarigan reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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