Hundreds of police yesterday launched raids across Japan on a wealthy religious cult suspected of swindling housewives by promising to diagnose their ailments by examining their feet.
Scores of plainclothes police swarmed over a sprawling temple complex near Mount Fuji, the heart of the Ho-no-hana Sanpogyo sect. Officers, who swooped on 74 sect buildings in Fuji city, suspect the cult persuaded the women to hand over about 22 million yen (HK$1.7 million) in return for "health advice".
Members of the cult were also suspected of telling the women they would "die young" or "suffer from cancer" if they failed to listen to the group's advice.
Separately, about 1,100 former followers are suing the cult for a total of 5.4 billion yen in damages. Cult leader Teruyoshi Fukunaga and his disciples do not have licences to practise medicine. But they say they can diagnose people's health and predict their future by examining their feet.
In Tokyo, police swooped on the central Tokyo apartment of Fukunaga, who lives in a building owned by the sect. Detectives carried boxes of confiscated evidence from the building and loaded them into vans.
Fukunaga describes his belief as a "super religion" and insists he is the next saviour after Christ and Buddha. "Human beings on the Earth and the planet will experience a major evolution in 2013," he says in a booklet.
The Asahi Shimbun daily said the organisation had collected about 61 billion yen from followers, who could be asked to pay more than 10 million yen for "training programmes".