Police on Friday launched a large-scale investigation into the Aum Supreme Truth cult's source of income, in response to the group's recent stepped-up activities.
According to police, Aum owns about 40 businesses, including personal computer manufacturing and food companies, with total sales of about 7 billion yen last year, a 100 percent increase from 1997. Three personal computer shops alone generate 6 billion yen a year, according to police sources.
Police have taken a hard-line stance toward the religious cult, searching facilities nationwide and arresting members handing out recruitment leaflets.
The Saitama Prefectural Police Headquarters searched more than 20 sites in five prefectures nationwide--from a personal computer factory in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, to a personal computer shop in Kanda, Tokyo.
Police intend to go ahead with a fact-finding probe into the cult's 6 billion yen-a-year personal computer business that has its own assembly line and sales channels.
Police began their crackdown on the religious cult on May 18, when the Nagano Prefectural Police Headquarters launched a full-scale search of Aum-related facilities in four prefectures, including Tokyo and Aichi Prefecture, prompted by a forgery case involving an Aum member in a land deal in Kawakamimura, Nagano Prefecture.
On June 7, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested an Aum follower who entered a condominium building without permission to distribute brochures to residents on May 27. Police also searched other facilities related to the intruder case in nine prefectures.
In an incident on May 14, police authorities, including the MPD, confiscated Aum badges and certificates of commendation for members from the cult's Tokyo headquarters in Ikebukuro. Police believe that the cult used these commendations to intensify competition in the recruitment of new members among followers and branch offices.
But police have not yet been able to determine if the main source of the cult's income comes from the personal computer business.
Of 30 main companies, less than half filed income tax returns, according to police. The MPD has been working with organizations such as the Regional Taxation Bureau to find the source of the group's money.
At about 8:40 a.m. Friday, about 20 policemen were involved in a raid on the Aum's computer assembly plant in Yashio, Saitama Prefecture, and searched the three-story factory after showing a man who appeared to be an Aum follower a search warrant.
A housewife living near the factory said, "After the factory moved to Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, there were fewer people and trucks going in and out of the factory here. I don't know for sure if the followers made personal computers, but I could hear the music they used to play for training."
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