Ex-cops put bounty on AUM fugitives

Mainichi Shimbun, October 20, 1999

Fugitive members of doomsday cult AUM Shinrikyo have even more to worry about after a retired police officer's association Tuesday put a combined 6 million yen bounty on their heads, association officials said.

The association will pay a 2 million yen reward to the person who provides authorities with definitive information leading to the arrest of each of three AUM cultists.

The fugitives - Makoto Hirata, 34, Katsuya Takahashi, 41, and Naoko Kikuchi, 27 -are wanted. Hirata is suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of a notary public. Takahashi and Kokuchi were allegedly involved in the fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

The association offering the reward is made up of former members of the Metropolitan Police Department. They put up the money in an effort to see the three accused criminals arrested as soon as possible. To determine who should receive the money in the event of the fugitives' arrest, the association will set up a committee to decide who provided the tip that ultimately led to getting the cultists into custody.

The bounty will be available to members of the general public after Wednesday. In a separate development, an AUM cult's senior member has apparently admitted in a letter sent to a cult's follower in prison that the 1995 fatal sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system and other alleged crimes were committed at their guru's wishes.

This is for the first time that any senior member of the cult has admitted the guru, Shoko Asahara, was involved in the alleged crimes, members of a defense group representing victims of crimes committed by the cult said.

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