Foot-reading guru bought audiences with leaders

South China Morning Post/December 29, 1999
By Sally Fisher

Japan's foot-reading cult, Ho-No-Hana Sampogyo, has spent US$10 million (HK$77 million) cosying up to world leaders, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, US President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul, it has been disclosed.

Records of the spending were discovered in documents seized from cult headquarters earlier this month during a police raid.

Cult leader Hogen Fukunuga met Mr Gorbachev after offering to pay US$10,000 a month for the former Soviet president's English-language magazine. He also pledged US$2 million to the Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, which secured an audience with the Pope when he tagged along on a visit to Rome with foundation members.

Mr Fukunuga, 54, has not been sighted since the raid on the cult, which included a search of his Tokyo home. But before vanishing he told followers the Pope had said to him: "Take care of things after I'm gone."

Followers believe he can cure cancer and Aids and predict the future. The cult's name translates as "Flower of Law" and recruits were told after a reading of their feet that they would contract cancer or suffer from bad luck if they did not participate in expensive seminars.

About 1,000 followers have filed lawsuits against the foot-readers, furious over how their cash was spent.

In May 1996, Mr Fukunuga went to a US Democratic Party function where he presented Mr Clinton with the Gandhi peace prize he had bankrolled.

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