AUM's computer firms bankrolling cult


Mainichi Daily News/June 10, 1999

Two AUM Shinrikyo front companies have served as the hub of the cult's computer sales network, which pumps billions of yen into the group's coffers, police discovered on Wednesday.

The revelation came one day after the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau inspected the two companies and a tax accountant's office in Tokyo in a bid to uncover the financial activities of the cult, which has recently become more and more visible.

This was the first time that tax authorities have conducted an inspection of the doomsday cult, the move aimed at developing a comprehensive financial picture of the organization.

The tax authorities are further expected to inspect 11 other companies that they believe are related to AUM, even though the cult maintains that it has only one affiliated company.

According to police and tax authorities, the cult earns about 7 billion yen annually through the sales of computers at seven affiliated retail shops in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, where merchandise is less expensive than at many other discount shops.

Authorities suspect that the shops can sell goods cheaper because the cult can hire its followers as employees at very low cost.

Among the cult-related corporations, the two front companies - Poseidon in Chiyoda-ku and SBR in Taito-ku - play a pivotal role in the cult's computer retail and wholesale network, respectively, the authorities have found.

Poseidon, which was established in 1990 and moved to its present address from Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, in October 1995, currently operates a computer retail shop the size of six tatami mats in a building in Tokyo's Akihabara district.

The shop, called Trisal, is crowded with the young set and businesspeople buying computer parts priced about 20 percent cheaper than market price.

A female employee of the shop, upon inquiry by the Mainichi, refused to comment on the tax inspection, saying, "I cannot answer questions about such matters."

The other company, SBR, purchases computer parts from here and abroad, and wholesales parts to factories and products to retail shops.

The authorities have found that the company, which was established in 1989, has changed its trade name twice over the past year.

The company also runs a retail shop called Hyper City in Adachi-ku, where signs on a boot cupboard at the entrance read seitaishi and seigoshi - terms representing ranks in the cult. Seitaishi, or great teacher, is the highest post after leader Shoko Asahara.

AUM Shinrikyo has denied any connections with the shop.

"[AUM Shinrikyo] disguises itself as a computer wholesaler in order to attract ordinary customers and cleverly distinguishes the trade names and shop names of their retail outlets in a bid to hide their sales profits," said a police official.

In fact, the address of the president of Poseidon is the same as the one for the Hyper City's shop, suggesting a close relationship between the two companies.

At a news conference on June 1, Hiroshi Araki, deputy head of the cult's public relations department, said, "There is only one cult-affiliated company, which holds seminars and other events."

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