Tokyo police have arrested two employees of the National Printing Bureau on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining coronavirus-related financial aid from the government.
Yuya Obo, 21, a resident of Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, and Ryo Shiiba, 20, a resident of Tokyo's Kita Ward, were arrested by the Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday. The two have admitted to the allegations against them, investigative sources said.
Obo and Shiiba are suspected of defrauding the state out of a total of ¥2 million in aid by applying for the benefits with the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency in June by disguising themselves as sole proprietors. In seeking the aid, they submitted fake tax return documents to the agency, the sources said. They are the first civil servants at a national agency to be arrested for fraud related to government aid aimed at supporting people and businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
The two were also found to have given instructions to some young workers at the National Printing Bureau, which falls under the Finance Ministry, on how to fraudulently obtain financial aid under the government program. Obo is also suspected of giving such advice to dozens of people outside of the printing bureau through social media for commission fees, according to the sources.
The National Printing Bureau, which has its headquarters in Tokyo's Minato Ward, became an incorporated administrative agency in 2003. It is in charge of printing banknotes, postage stamps and passports.
The arrest of the two employees was "extremely regrettable," the government agency said, offering a deep apology to the public. "We will speedily investigate the matter and strictly punish them if the allegations are true," it added.
A number of cases of fraudulent receipts of coronavirus aid have been uncovered in Japan. Among people who have been arrested for alleged fraud related to the program were a former employee of the Okinawa Times and a former certified public tax accountant who previously worked for the Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau.
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