Authorities in South Korea have arrested the founding father of a secretive Christian sect on the centre of the nation’s largest coronavirus cluster on expenses of obstructing the federal government’s efforts to comprise the outbreak in February and March.
Lee Man-hee is the highly effective head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, which is linked to greater than 5,200 coronavirus infections, or 36 % of South Korea’s complete instances.
The 89-year-old was taken into custody on Saturday after a court docket in Suwon District granted an arrest warrant over prosecutors’ issues that he may tamper with proof.
Prosecutors allege Lee conspired with different sect leaders to withhold info from authorities, together with their assembly locations and the variety of contributors at their gatherings as authorities tried to hint an infection routes in February.
Lee can also be suspected of embezzling about 5.6 billion gained ($4.7m) in church funds, together with about 5 billion gained which he allegedly used to construct a retreat, Yonhap information company reported.
He has beforehand described the novel coronavirus because the “satan’s deed” to cease the sect’s development. The church at the moment has greater than 200,000 followers.
Decide Lee Myeong-chul mentioned “there have been circumstances indicating systematic makes an attempt to destroy proof” and contemplating Lee’s standing, “it can’t be dominated out that there can be comparable makes an attempt sooner or later”.
Lee and his church have steadfastly denied the accusations, saying they had been cooperating with well being authorities.
In a press release, the church mentioned Lee was involved about authorities calls for for members’ private info however by no means tried to cover something.
“The court docket’s issuance of an arrest warrant doesn’t suggest a responsible verdict. All potential efforts can be made to unveil the reality within the upcoming court docket trials,” it added.
Seven different officers from the group had been indicted on July 28 on expenses together with violation of the infectious illness management regulation and obstruction of justice, in response to Yonhap.
Three of them had been arrested on July 8.
Lee apologised again in March for the unfold of the illness, after the sect’s department within the southern metropolis of Daegu emerged as the most important cluster in South Korea.
Well being authorities used an aggressive test-and-quarantine programme to comprise the outbreak in Daegu and close by cities by April, however the nation has seen a resurgence of the virus within the Seoul metropolitan space since late Could.
Officers within the East Asian nation of 52 million introduced 31 new instances Saturday, taking the entire variety of infections to 14,336. At the very least 301 individuals have died.
Al Jazeera and information companies