TOKYO, Aug. 20–(Kyodo) _ The AUM Shinrikyo cult, which perpetrated the deadly sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995, has earned about 30 million yen by holding intensive seminars this summer attended by about 300 members, police sources said Saturday.
The police believe that the doomsday cult, which has renamed itself Aleph, has come to increasingly rely on seminars more than ever to generate income after losing stable income sources such as having members work at computer-related firms due to tight police surveillance and arrests.
According to police investigations, AUM earned income through such means as collecting fees and donations at the intensive seminars held Aug. 9-15 at 11 locations nationwide, including its facilities in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, and Osaka’s Nishinari Ward, the sources said.
The number of participants was about 10 percent less than last year, but the group earned the same amount of money, they said.
The police arrested some senior and other AUM members 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.
The seminars were organized by two of the three senior cult members, and they are said to be opposed to Joyu’s comeback.
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 1995 fatal sarin attack. His defense team is appealing the ruling.
The two were quoted as saying, “The 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.”
Regarding the drop in the number of participants, one police source said the group may have had trouble attracting people because of the internal discord over the comeback of Joyu.
Joyu assumed the leadership post in January 2002 but passed on the group’s day-to-day management to a five-member leadership in October 2003 after many cultists spurned his move to distance the group from Asahara.
But some group members have since questioned the leadership of the five executives, some of whom were arrested for allegedly violating an employment law and other law violations.
According to the Justice Ministry, AUM had about 650 live-in followers and about 1,000 other followers at the end of last year, maintaining 26 facilities in 17 prefectures. It also had about 300 followers in Russia.
The group’s membership at one point peaked at more than 10,000 and included people of high educational and professional background, such as doctors and graduates of top universities.
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