Ho-no-Hana Sanpogyo, a religious organization under police investigation on suspicion of fraud, offered about 5 million yen to an influential member of the municipal assembly of Fuji, Shizuoka Prefecture, around 1987, police said Wednesday.
Police are investigating whether the donation was linked to Ho-no-Hana's successful application for registration as a religious organization in the prefecture, as similar applications were rejected in Tokyo, as well as in Chiba and Oita prefectures, at about the same time.
Hogen Fukunaga, founder of the religious organization, and 11 other leading members were arrested Tuesday on suspicion of cheating a large number of people out of a huge amount of money.
A 63-year-old former municipal assembly member who served as speaker of the assembly is alleged to have taken the money. Police searched his home in December after searching the religious organization's headquarters in the city and other facilities.
The former assembly member allegedly received about 150,000 yen a month for several years before and after March 1987, when Ho-no-Hana was registered as a religious organization with the Shizuoka prefectural government. The donations totaled about 5 million yen.
He told investigators, "I gave advice, such as telling (the religious organization) which office handled such applications, and was rewarded for my help."
"But I did not offer any preferential treatment to the religious organization when it established a foothold in the city of Fuji," police quoted him as saying.
Though Ho-no-Hana asked the Tokyo metropolitan government and the Chiba and Oita prefectural governments to register the religious organization all within a short space of time, all three local governments rejected the request.
After the Shizuoka prefectural government registered the organization, Ho-no-Hana began buying about 1.8 hectares of land in the city in 1988 and began constructing Fuji Tenseimura, the facility that would eventually function as its headquarters, at a cost of about 4 billion yen.
The former assembly member was also associated with the construction company that was awarded the contract for the construction of the facility. Police said it was likely that Ho-no-Hana offered money to the former assembly member to help get the organization registered with the prefectural government and let it construct a base in the city.
In an interview with The Yomiuri Shimbun, the former assembly member said, "I received the donation. I do not wish to comment on whether I gave help" to Ho-no-Hana.
With regard to the organization's bids to be registered elsewhere, an official of the Tokyo metropolitan government said, "As this happened more than 10 years ago, we have no way of confirming what happened." The two prefectural governments also said they did not have details of the applications.
Meanwhile, a joint investigation squad from the Metropolitan Police Department and Shizuoka prefectural police sent Hogen Fukunaga, whose real first name is Teruyoshi, and the 11 leading members of Ho-no-Hana who were also arrested Tuesday to the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office on Wednesday.
Police also sent papers on Fusako Imoto, 79, Fukunaga's mother and a former chief director of the religious organization, to prosecutors on suspicion of fraud.
Imoto has been hospitalized in Tokyo since late April. When police questioned her with her doctor's permission, she told investigators, "Though I have received money, I did not know any fraud had been committed."