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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 11:07 GMT
Clone cult firm raided in S Korea
Claude Vorilhon - the spiritual leader of the Raelian Movement and founder of Clonaid
The Raelian sect believes humans were cloned by aliens
Prosecutors in South Korea have seized documents from a biotechnology company linked to a controversial sect which claims to have created the world's first cloned baby.

Dr Brigitte Boisselier, the scientist leading Clonaid's efforts
Dr Boisselier last week claimed the birth of a healthy cloned baby girl, nicknamed Eve
After raiding the offices of BioFusion Tech Inc. in the southern city of Daegu, officials questioned members of staff to see whether they had taken part in the cloning project.

Cloning is not illegal in South Korea, but prosecutors may be investigating whether staff have been carrying out medical research without a licence.

Last week, scientists from Clonaid - a US-based firm linked to the Raelian sect - said that they had helped a woman give birth to a cloned baby girl.

However, the announcement has been viewed with deep scepticism by the scientific community at large - and no proof has so far been put forward.

Raid

"The investigators broke through windows into my house and the offices in Seoul and Daegu to seize documents," BioFusion Tech Inc. spokesman Kwak Gi-Hwa told the AFP news agency.

Mr Kwak said he and the firms president were banned from leaving the country.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency also reported that the prosecutors interrogated a South Korean woman, who had allegedly signed up for the cloning project.

BioFusion Tech Inc. - Clonaid's South Korean subsidiary - has been under investigation since July, after the firm said three South Korean women were taking part in the project and one of them was pregnant with a cloned foetus.

Clonaid began its operation in South Korea this year, and about 5,000 Koreans are believed to follow the Raelian cult.

Human cloning is not illegal in South Korea, and a bill outlawing the practice is currently being debated in the parliament.

But if officials without licences are found to have carried out any medical research, they could face up to five years in jail or $18,000 in fines, according to Yonhap agency.

Alien project

Clonaid is linked to the Raelian sect, whose founder, Claude Vorilhon describes himself as a prophet and calls himself Rael.

The Raelians believe humans are the result of a genetic engineering project run by super-intelligent extra-terrestrials.

Clonaid has been racing against the Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori to produce the first cloned baby.

Mr Antinori has claimed that one of his patients will give birth to a cloned baby in January.

See also:

29 Dec 02 | Health
27 Dec 02 | Health
25 Oct 01 | Science/Nature
09 Mar 01 | Science/Nature
09 Aug 01 | Science/Nature
15 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
06 Jul 01 | Science/Nature
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