A DOOMSDAY millennium cult,
members of which have been linked by police to the terrorists who
killed 12 people in a sarin gas attack in Japan, has established a
London base and recruited scores of members in Britain.
The Sukyo Mahikari cult - said by former members to propagate
neo-Nazi and anti-Jewish propaganda - was denounced last year by
witnesses at an official parliamentary inquiry as
Police have linked some members of the cult to Aum Shinrikyo, the
terrorist sect whose leaders are facing charges of mass murder after
the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995.
Former members of Sukyo Mahikari, which has successfully applied
for charitable status in Britain, say it is preparing for a
"baptism of fire" that could end the world next year. The
cult's Japanese supremacist leadership says only its members will
A prediction that governments might be destroyed by using the
subway appears in textbooks published by the organisation. Some
members in Britain are stockpiling food in the event of a social
upheaval or disaster.
An undercover reporter from The Sunday Times spent a month at the
group's base in south London. Cult leaders claim they have recruited
more than 300 members in Britain and have established a presence in
Manchester, Leeds, northeast England and Wales.
Members also said they expected the end of the world as early as
next year. Former members interpret this as meaning they are
planning some sort of action as the millennium approaches.
The cult's literature, handed to the reporter at the cult's
London base, states: "Under the present circumstances there is
the terrible possibility that mankind might be annihilated by the
baptism of fire."
Former members say this is the same language used by other cults
such as the Solar Temple, where members committed mass suicide three
years ago, and Aum Shinrikyo.
Like Aum, the cult recruits
Members are encouraged to donate cash as soon as possible. The
undercover reporter was asked on just her second visit to the
charity for a cash contribution. On each subsequent visit it was
suggested that a contribution would be welcome.
Each morning members at the London headquarters would join in an
unusual prayer ritual involving chanting, clapping and bowing at a
small, wooden altar.
Cash donations are placed in an open envelope and slipped into a
wooden box at the altar. Contributors are asked to give their names
and the amount of their donation on a slip of paper which is put in
Former members in Europe, Japan and Australia said that on
occasion members hand over payments of thousands of pounds and gifts
Police and parliamentary bodies in five countries have expressed
concerns about Sukyo Mahikari - already expelled from one African
state - which was founded by Yoshikazu Okada, a former Japanese
imperial army officer. He played a key role in the massacre of
200,000 men, women and children in Nanking, China, in the 1930s.
Financial records show that the British group has given
£20,000 to its European and African headquarters in
Luxembourg; the headquarters is based in the Chateau d'Ansembourg,
bought from Count Gaston d'Ansembourg in 1987 for £760,000.
The count is the cult's leader for Europe and Africa.
The Luxembourg headquarters is already at the centre of a scandal
in which £42,000 of European Union money was allegedly used to
refurbish the cult's buildings.
A dossier of new allegations about the cult's financial affairs
in Belgium is expected to be handed to police there within the next
two weeks. It was in Belgium that witnesses described the cult as
one of the most dangerous in the country.
The cult has also come under scrutiny from the authorities in
France, where a report by a parliamentary committee found it was
"dangerous". René Poux, of the Families and
Individuals Defence support group, said official concerns centred on
the way cult leaders extracted money from their 12,000 French
members. "Huge funds are collected which are then sent on to
Japan," he said.
However, a spokeswoman for Sukyo Mahikari last week dismissed
claims that it was linked to Aum Shinrikyo. "It is an absolute
nonsense. It is true that a member of Aum in Australia had been a
member of Mahikari. But as far as I know that's it," she said.
"We don't have a doomsday obsession but it is true that some
members in the British branch are preparing for great change and
this does involve stockpiling materials like food. But only a few do
"We are not anti-Jewish. Our textbooks do mention the subway
prediction but this is just something our founder believed might
Insight: David Leppard, Jessica Berry and Chris Hastings