Cultists are nabbed over sales of steroid ointment
Police on Tuesday arrested a senior member of Aum Shinrikyo and five other cultists on suspicion of selling pharmaceutical products without authorization.
Police also raided 47 locations connected to the cult, including its headquarters in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward and a training facility in Suginami Ward.
Investigators said Naruhito Noda, 37, a high-ranking member of the cult now called Aleph, had been overseeing financial aspects of the group’s operations.
Noda and the other five are suspected of violating the pharmaceutical affairs law.
Investigators said cult members allegedly sold skin cream containing a pharmaceutical steroid.
Retailers are required to get prefectural authorization for such sales. Cult members did not, police said.
They sold about 2,300 packages of Togen Cream for a total of about 19 million yen to 720 people via the Internet between February 2003 and last April, police said.
The ointment was priced at 8,000 yen. The cult touted its effectiveness against dermatitis.
But some buyers started complaining about skin rashes when they used the ointment.
Police suspect the cult was trying to raise funds through the illegal sales.
It is not the first time Aum members have been arrested in connection with sales of the ointment.
Nine people, including the representative of the cream maker in Tokyo’s Tachikawa and other cult members, were arrested last month. Eight have already been indicted.
The cult is nominally headed by Fumihiro Joyu, who was a spokesman for Aum under cult founder Chizuo Matsumoto. Joyu assumed leadership in 2002.
In reality, though, the cult is led by a group of five executives since Joyu stepped down from the public spotlight in October, police say.
Noda has been one of the cult’s five behind-the-scenes leaders since then, the police said