Police grill high-ranked Ho-no-Hana members

Yomiuri Shimbun/April 25, 2000

Police began questioning top members of the Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo religious group, formerly led by 55-year-old Hogen Fukunaga, on Tuesday in connection with a case in which the group is suspected of swindling three persons out of 22 million yen.

Police are likely to question Fukunaga himself and believe they have adequate proof of fraud involving more than 10 members of the group.

Fukunaga and the others are alleged to have duped the persons out of the money by providing "training sessions" after examining the victims' feet.

Among those questioned were a 42-year-old man, who is a Ho-no-Hana official, and a 50-year-old woman, who is also a group official with the title of full-time lecturer.

Police also demanded that a 54-year-old high-ranking group official present himself voluntarily for questioning.

According to police, Fukunaga and Ho-no-Hana members examined the soles of the feet of three persons between November 1994 and June 1995.

Fukunaga allegedly persuaded the three to participate in training sessions, at a cost of 2.25 million yen per person, and buy expensive hanging scrolls, telling them that they would develop cancer if they did not act as he instructed.

Police in December raided more than 110 locations associated with the group, including the Ho-no-Hana headquarters in Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, and Fukunaga's residence in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Police found that the religious group had made a foot-inspection manual. They also discovered that the group had set an obligatory quota for new recruits.

Evidence confiscated in the raids led police to question more than 100 people, including group staffers and former followers, in their probe of Ho-no-Hana's business practices.

As a result of the questioning, police reportedly decided to grill the top members of the group, who are believed to have lured new recruits by examining their feet with the intention of making them anxious about their health.

As those questioned by police Tuesday were deeply involved in Ho-no-Hana's financial management, police were believed to have questioned them about sources of funding and expenditure.

Fukunaga has held press conference on eight occasions since the police raids in December. He has denied the allegations entirely, saying that heaven never told him to commit fraud and there were no victims.

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