Digital Money Is Not Ours

As the New York Tims reported, a Japanese young man received USD360,000 from a local COVID support fund in error. He invested the money in digital casino networks, from which, fortunately, the local government recovered most of the money.

Now, the man was reportedly arrested by the police on a charge of “fraud”, becuase he discovered the money in his account and allegedly wired it ot his account in the casino. Of course the suspect’s conduct is not proper, but is here any element of fraud?

Well yes, a previous court case fuled that a suspect was guilty of fraud when the indivisual submitted a withdrawal request to a bank teller for money mistakenly received. The difference in this case, however, is that no bank official is involved, and the suspect just digitally sent the money from his own device by Web transactions. It is as if cash wsa sent to the suspect’s home from where the individual sent elsewhere. In that scenario, it would not be a fraud case, but embeszzelement.

To understand these cases consistently, one must understand the status of digital money under Japanese law. While it is not explicitly set forth anywhere, you are not the owner of the money or the account; it is somehting banks hold and you are only given a limited right to access. You are not supposed to conduct transactions inappropriately on your device, because the money is not yours; it is still in the banks’ digital safe, although they will not bear full liability for your mismanagement.