State to withdraw 400 million yen claim against Aum

Japan Times/March 18, 1998

The government intends to withdraw a claim for more than 400 million yen against Aum Shinrikyo, which has been declared bankrupt, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kanezo Muraoka indicated March 18.

Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers are preparing a bill to have the government forfeit its rights so that other creditors and claimants from the general public can obtain more repayments or redress, Muraoka told a regular news conference. "I've heard that the planned legislation is to be proposed after the group of LDP legislators consults with lawmakers in other parties," Muraoka said.

Under the Fiscal Law, the state cannot renounce a financial claim once it has been registered, unless it does so through legal steps. Consequently, the state cannot take action on its own accord to drop its financial claims against the cult, whose members stand accused of several heinous crimes, including two lethal nerve gas attacks.

If the government relinquishes its claim, it is estimated that the victims of the crimes for which members of Aum are now on trial will be able to receive about 19 percent of what they are seeking in monetary redress, up from an estimated 16 percent.

Responding to reporters, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto said he understands the move to enact a law to have the state renounce its financial claim against Aum, but added that he is unable to immediately judge whether that option would be the best course to follow.

Hashimoto's apparent caution stems from the impact that dropping the state's claim may have in other quarters. Saburo Abe, Aum's bankruptcy administrator, and general creditors had been demanding the state renounce its claims against the cult.

Abe pointed out that he must give some indication of how the cult's assets will be distributed during a March 25 meeting of claimants, and he welcomed the lawmakers' legislative move. He added that he will ask local governments to renounce their tax claims against the cult, including property taxes on Aum land and other holdings.

The cult has assets worth about 1 billion yen, but liabilities and projected outlays total about 5.2 billion yen, according to Abe.

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