Court orders Aum assets seized for compensation

Yomiuri Shimbun, December 16, 1999

The Tokyo District Court has ordered the temporary seizure of 10.5 million yen due to be paid to the Aum Supreme Truth cult by the Minami Aikimura village government in Nagano Prefecture in exchange for a facility owned by the cult.

The order was made in response to bankruptcy administrator Saburo Abe's request that the money be seized to prevent the cult from concealing it before the enforcement of a law that provides for seizure of the cult's assets to compensate victims of the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995 and other incidents.

The cult has been trying to sell real estate before its assets are seized under the new law, which will take effect on Dec. 27. The municipal government contracted to purchase the cult's facility in the village for 11.5 million yen.

After the law goes into effect, Abe plans to ask that money from the sale of the facility be used to compensate the Aum victims. Abe plans to take similar legal action over sales of the cult's other facilities.

The facility that the municipal government is due to purchase is a two-story wooden house with a floor space of about 130 square meters on a roughly 400-square-meter lot.

According to public security authorities, the property was frequently visited by cult followers after it was purchased by a cult member at a court auction in May. In response, residents living near the facility began a campaign to drive the cult off the property.

In October, the cult persuaded the municipal government to purchase the building and the lot, by implying that a third party wanted to buy the property for 20 million yen.

On Nov. 27, the municipal government and the cult drew up a contract agreeing that the former would purchase the property for 11.5 million yen. The municipality has already paid 1 million yen to the cult, and both parties agreed that the municipal government would pay the remainder after it confirms that the cult has withdrawn from the property by Dec. 20. Abe petitioned the court for the temporary seizure to prevent the cult from concealing the proceeds of the sale .

A law aimed at compensating Aum victims was enacted earlier this month. Under the law, assets of cult followers and cult-related companies are treated as assets of the bankrupt cult. It enables the bankruptcy administrator to file lawsuits seeking the return of cult assets to him so they can be used to compensate victims.

Prior to the enactment of the law, the cult began to sell its facilities to local governments of the jurisdictions where the properties are located. The municipal government of Kisofukushimamachi, also in Nagano Prefecture, where another cult facility is located, agreed on Oct. 22 to purchase the facility for about 10 million yen.

On Dec. 1, the municipal government of Fukiagemachi, Saitama Prefecture, agreed with Aum members that it would pay the cult 3.3 million yen in rent if they vacated the facility by next March. Public security authorities have said the cult is trying to conceal its assets by selling real estate to obtain cash, and they are cautious about such activities.

Earlier this month, Abe sent documents to the heads of 10 municipal governments where Aum facilities are located, warning them not to sign a contract to purchase the facilities and not to pay money even if such a contract has already been made.

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