The Aum Shinrikyo cult, which perpetrated the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, has earned about 30 million yen this summer by holding intensive seminars attended by about 300 members, police sources said Saturday.
The police believe the doomsday cult, which has renamed itself Aleph, has come to rely on seminars more than ever to generate funds. Due to tight police surveillance and arrests, it has lost stable income sources such as having members work at computer-related firms.
The sources said that police investigations show Aum earned income through such means as collecting fees and donations at the intensive seminars held Aug. 9 to Aug. 15 at 11 locations nationwide, including its facilities in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, and Nishinari Ward, Osaka.
The number of participants was about 10 percent less than last year, but the group earned the same amount of money, the sources said.
Some senior and other Aum members were arrested in May and June on suspicion of dispatching group members to work at software development companies while concealing their ties to the cult in breach of the Employment Security Law.
The police crackdown on such activities has cut off these stable streams of income.
Fumihiro Joyu, 42, the nominal head of the group, did not show up at the seminars this year despite rumors he is attempting to stage a comeback as the cult’s real leader. He also did not appear last year.
The seminars were organized by two of the cult’s three senior members who are reported to be opposed to Joyu’s return.
At the seminars, the two leaders preached that Aum founder Shoko Asahara is the absolute figure, the sources said.
Asahara, 50, whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto, was sentenced to death by the Tokyo District Court for his role in 13 criminal cases, including the fatal 1995 sarin attack. His defense team is appealing the ruling.
The two Aum executives were quoted as saying at the seminars, “Physical distance does not matter. The important thing is to think of and praise Asahara Sonshi (guru),” and, “It is necessary to keep observing Sonshi’s teachings.”
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