Yamato Q member held over Japan welfare fraud

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
A Yamato Q demonstration in Osaka City in May.

A 53-year-old man representing anti-vaccination group Yamato Q has been arrested and indicted on charges of illegally receiving welfare assistance, the Osaka prefectural police said.

The man allegedly appropriated part of around ¥72 million in endorsement money collected by the group but continued to receive state benefits and did not report his income.

Yamato Q is known for sabotaging vaccinations and using the internet to spread such conspiracy theories as “the COVID-19 vaccine is intended to reduce the population.”

The group identifies with the U.S.-based QAnon movement, which venerates former U.S. President Donald Trump as a “savior” and claims that a “deep state” or “dark government” is controlling the world.

Yamato Q refers to itself as “QAnon’s Japan chapter.”

Yamato Q, which was founded in December 2021, has an office in Tokyo and holds anti-vaccination demonstrations across the nation. The group utilized YouTube and other social media to post such messages as “Vaccines are murderous. Let’s save our children,” or “Yamato [Japanese] people with special genes must stand up!” and quickly built up a following, particularly among middle-aged and elderly people.

The group has more than 10,000 subscribers on OpenChat in the Line messaging app, and at one point, about 6,000 people participated in the group’s simultaneous anti-vaccination demos across the country.

In February this year, Yamato Q began soliciting donations on its website. According to the Osaka prefectural police, as of July, the group had received 1,044 payments totaling ¥71.92 million. The money was funneled into the personal account of the representative, who lives in Osaka Prefecture.

However, details of the group’s finances were not disclosed, which gave rise to complaints from other Yamato Q members.

According to the police, the man had been living on welfare at an apartment in Konohana Ward, Osaka, but moved to a three-story house in Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, in April without filing a moving-out notice. At the time, he withdrew a large sum of money from his bank and used at least ¥4 million to buy a TV, refrigerator and household goods.

The police arrested the man on Nov. 8 on suspicion of receiving ¥510,000 in public welfare from the Osaka city government while not reporting the money from the Yamato Q money as an income. The Osaka District Public Prosecutors Office indicted him on fraud charges on Nov. 28.

The man reportedly denies the charges.