Police on Tuesday arrested a high-ranking member of the AUM Shinrikyo cult, and raided about 50 cult-related facilities over the group’s unauthorized sales of a cream it claimed could treat atopic dermatitis.
Police accuse Noda and the other members of selling about 2,300 cream products to around 720 people nationwide between February last year and April this year without the necessary permission from the Tokyo governor, earning an estimated 19 million yen.
Contained in the cream were ingredients of steroids that can cause side effects, investigators said.
Investigators suspect sales of the cream were systematically carried out under the authority of cult executives.
Noda is one of five members of the cults ranking second to Fumihiro Joyu, the leader of the group. He is believed to be responsible for raising money for the organization, and police safety officials are working to trace the money the cult is thought to have raised through its sales.
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In documents submitted to the Public Security Intelligence Agency, AUM listed Noda as an “executive.” He entered the cult in 1988, and in 1995, the year when AUM carried out its deadly sarin attack on Tokyo’s subway system, he was the head of the cult’s “Vehicle Ministry.”
About half of the group’s funds come out of the pockets of its adherents through offerings, but recently this amount has been dropping.
In May it held a spring seminar at 11 locations nationwide, but only 370 people attended, compared with about 400 the previous year. Only about 25 people went through the expensive initiation, far fewer than the 300 for the same period the previous year.