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 Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 10:06 GMT
Japanese 'psychic' arrested for exorcism fraud
A Japanese man has been arrested along with eight "disciples" on suspicion of fraud, after taking millions of yen in fees for performing exorcism rites on the public.

I didn't mean to cheat them and it is not a fraud

Shunichi Miyazaki
Police said that the group dressed in tennis clothes and carried racquets or violin cases to make them appear more "credible" when approaching potential clients in public places, such as train stations.

The group members told passers-by: "Your back is possessed by the spirit of a dead woman and she has attached strings to your neck," or "the spirit of a dead man with severed legs is cling to your waist," the Daily Yomiuri reported.

The group, led by 55-year-old Shunichi Miyazaki, is suspected of charging more than 1,000 people between 30,000 and 1 million yen ($253-8,449) for an exorcism, the paper said.

Most of the victims were believed to be women in their 20s or 30s, the Daily Yomiuri said.

Dupe denial

The group allegedly operated in the Tokyo area, as well as in Nagoya, Osaka and Kanagawa prefecture.

A spokesman for Kanagawa prefecture police said the victims were taken to the group's "oratory" in the mountains near Kamakura, in Kanagawa, or to hotel rooms, where the exorcisms were performed.

Mr Miyazaki told the Daily Yomiuri he did not set out to dupe the women.

"When I was a high school student, I nearly drowned. After the incident I came to have psychic power. I didn't mean to cheat them and it is not a fraud," he was quoted as saying.

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