Each week, here at Osaka.com, we bring you a selection of some of the top stories about Osaka making the local and national news here in Japan. Sometimes it’s serious, sometimes it’s funny, but it’s always direct to you, from Osaka.
Here’s a look at some of the stories hitting the headlines in Osaka this week.
Table of Contents
Subsidy Scammers Caught Out
One of the major cornerstones of Osaka’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, appears to have been widely misused. At the request of a local government member this week, sources disclosed that 240 million yen of distributed funds went to businesses who did not comply.
Under the subsidy scheme, businesses received these payments in return for closing their premises early. Research at the time suggested this could prevent the spread of the virus. However, statistics released this week show that 146 businesses in the prefecture received the subsidy but did not alter their normal opening hours.
Local government sources however, speaking confidentially, stated that this is the possible proverbial tip of the iceberg. The 240 million yen accounted for so far comes only from businesses who “came clean” and admitted their deception. Sources believe there could exist exponentially more businesses involved in this subsidy fraud. Some even went as far as to predict that the final bill could run into billions of yen.
Subsidy Cheats Outed by Members of the Public
The head of the prefectural government’s labor, commerce and industry section, Hiroyuki Kobayashi, praised the people of Osaka for their support in exposing the subsidy cheats. He said the vast majority of confirmed cases of subsidy fraud came about as a result of tip-offs from members of the public. The government has not yet confirmed what will happen with the 240 million yen recovered so far. However, as it is taxpayer money, the likelihood is the funds will go towards other public projects.
In the meantime, the government continues to receive information on new cases of alleged subsidy fraud. Kobayashi pledged to investigate each and every allegation vigorously. “We hope to recover as much of the public’s money as we can. We also intend to take a very hard line with business found to be defrauding the system who don’t voluntarily return money not due to them.”
Investigation Continues into Threats Against Teachers and Students
Osaka police continued to investigate a case of threatening behavior this week. Over the course of the “Golden Week” holidays, last month, a series of anonymous threats were made against teachers and students. Several threatening messages were sent to specific teachers at a private junior high school in Osaka Prefecture. Further threats were also made against the safety of teachers and students in both Hirakata and Sakai City municipal areas. In a rather strange turn of events, the perpetrator used the comment and feedback section of local police homepages to make their threats.
The threats cover a wide, yet oddly specific area of schools. However, police believe that this is a case of a single person, acting alone. They point to similarities in the writing style and word choice across all the messages. In total more than 10 such threating communications came in over the past few weeks.
Unfortunately, efforts to catch the culprit remain unsuccessful thus far. An attempt to trace the source of the communications via its IP address returned results in several foreign countries. This leads police to suspect that the perpetrator uses “Tor” or some other similar IP masking technology such as a VPN. Such technologies are widespread and using them is not illegal in and of itself.
Police will continue to monitor the situation. Schools have also stepped up security in the affected areas. In some cases, after school activities were also temporarily cancelled.
Unfortunately, not all police in Osaka applied the same diligence to their duties this past week. In an act of quite astounding incompetence, two officers accidentally assisted in a recent act of fraud.
The officers, both in their 20s, moved to assist a woman in her 70s after seeing her at a nearby ATM. The woman was on her phone, whilst using the ATM. The police believed this was suspicious, so they moved in to assist.
Their initial suspicions were correct, as the woman was in the process of inadvertently transferring 950,000 yen to the con artist on the other end of the phone. However, when police spoke to the suspect on the phone, he smoothly brushed their concerns aside.
“Don’t worry, I’m with the banks customer service center, I’m just helping this lady use the ATM”.
The young officers, perhaps showing their naivety took the suspect’s words at face value. They did not press the matter further and left the woman to it.
In total, over two acts of wire fraud, the woman was swindled out of a total of 1.9 million yen. She will, in the fullness of time, get most of this money back via her banks fraud prevention insurance. For their part, Osaka police pledged to give their officers “more thorough guidance on such situations” in the future.
That’s all for now but be sure to check back again same time next week for another round of This Week in Osaka!