South Korean cult leader arrested for hiding Covid-19 data, embezzlement

PHOTO: France 24

Authorities in South Korea this morning arrested the founder of a secretive Christian sect at the centre of the country’s largest outbreak of Covid-19 infections for allegedly concealing crucial data from contact-tracers, and other offences. Police nabbed Lee Man-hee, the powerful head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is linked to more than 5,200 coronavirus infections, or about 36% of South Korea’s total cases.

Prosecutors say the 89 year old conspired with sect leaders in February to withhold information from authorities during the peak of the outbreak, among his more than 200,000 followers. Lee, who describes the virus as the “devil’s deed” to stop the sect’s growth, allegedly hid details on members and their meeting places as authorities tried to trace infection routes, Yonhap news agency reports. He’s also suspected of embezzling about 5.6 billion won (US$4.7 million) in church funds, which he allegedly used to build a retreat.

The sect released a statement saying Lee was concerned about government demands for members’ personal information but never tried to hide anything.

Lee was arrested immediately after a court in Suwon District, south of Seoul, approved the warrant.

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SOURCE: Reuters

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