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Sunday, November 8, 1998 Published at 15:56 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Police raid on Japanese cult

The cult has been involved in covert property deals

Police in Japan have raided 10 sites in and around Tokyo with suspected links to the doomsday cult, Aum Shin Rikyo.

The raids are part of an investigation into an alleged fraud designed to hide the cult's ownership of property.

Cult members were responsible for a nerve gas attack on the Tokyo underground rail network three years ago, which killed 12 people and made 6,000 others ill.

Public fears resulting from that and other incidents means that the cult now has to carry out its business dealings under false pretences.

The cult is said to have used fake signature seals to cover up its purchase of properties, including a holiday house which was to be used as a dormitory for cult members.

The police arrested an estate agent whom they suspect of placing fraudulent construction orders.

Suspected comeback

[ image: Cult membership has dropped since Asahara's arrest]
Cult membership has dropped since Asahara's arrest
Japanese media estimate that membership of the cult has dropped from 12,000 to 6,000 since the arrest and trial of its leader, Shoko Asahara, and other top officials.

But police are increasingly concerned that the cult is making a covert comeback. Much of its income is reported to come from a lucrative computer business which it runs.

Mr Asahara is still on trial on charges relating to the Tokyo gas attack and other similar cases.

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