Authorities: Japanese Fugitive Tied to $7.2M COVID Relief Plot

Mitsuhiro Taniguchi is now in custody in Indonesia and set to be deported
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2022 8:07 AM CDT
Japanese 'Investor' Arrested in Indonesia for COVID Relief Fraud
Mitsuhiro Taniguchi, 47, of Japan, is led by an Indonesian immigration officer after a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

(Newser) – For a week or two, Mitsuhiro Taniguchi was holed up in the home of an Indonesian fish trader, trying to convince him of his plan to invest in local fisheries. That won't be happening now, though, as he's been nabbed by authorities over the money he was perhaps going to put toward those investments. The AP reports that the 47-year-old Japanese fugitive was arrested Tuesday by immigration officers and local law enforcement in the Lampung province, on the island of Sumatra, for fraud over COVID relief subsidies after being placed on an international wanted list late last month.

Taniguchi and a circle of co-conspirators have been accused of submitting 1,700 or so phony applications under Japan's COVID relief program. Nearly 1,000 of those applications were successful, for a total of more than $7.2 million. The Mainichi reports that the applications were submitted between May 2020 and September of that same year, according to Tokyo's Metropolitan Police Department. Taniguchi fled Japan in October 2020, about two months after the subsidies office caught on that something was amiss. Japanese officials eventually tracked him to Indonesia and alerted authorities there. "His presence in Indonesia became illegal after the Japanese authorities revoked his passport," Dedi Prasetyo, a spokesperson for Indonesia's National Police, tells the AP.

AFP notes that Taniguchi had been living in Jakarta on a limited-stay visa, but had recently traveled to Lampung for his investing scheme. Taniguchi's ex-wife and their two sons were also arrested for fraud at the end of May, and accused of stealing nearly $23,000 in COVID relief funds from the government. Authorities from both Indonesia and Japan are now arranging for Taniguchi's extradition back to Japan. (Another Japanese man apparently gambled away the nearly $360,000 he's said to have stolen in COVID relief funds.)

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