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

Jack Burton

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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.

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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