Fraud charges against the Unification Church follow the Abe murder
by Guido Alberto Casanova

Investigators increasingly see a connection between the former Japanese leader’s murder and the resentment his assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, felt towards the religious sect for getting his mother to squander the family’s assets. In a letter he describes Abe as one the “influential sympathizers of the Unification Church” even though the link did not go beyond political considerations.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Many details are emerging about the Unification Church ten days after the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Following his arrest, Abe’s assassin, Tetsuya Yamagami, told police that he was driven by resentment against the religious group to which Abe was linked. Created in South Korea in the 1950s, the religious sect had taken roots in Japan over the decades.

According to investigators, Abe's attacker wanted to get back at the religious sect for the negative impact his mother's involvement in it had on the family.

According to the family, after joining in the 1990s, the killer’s mother donated more than 100 million yen (about US$ 725,000) to the Church: 60 million (US$ 435,000) from the life insurance of her late husband and 40 million (US$ 290,000) from the sale of family land.

Even after she declared personal bankruptcy in 2002, the mother continued to give money to the religious sect. As a result of her profligacy, the family eventually ran into financial difficulties, and Yamagami was forced to quit university.

Accusations of financial deception and brainwashing have marred the history of the Unification Church with reports suggesting that it forces its members to buy what it calls “spiritual merchandise” and donate some of their income.

More recently, some Japanese lawyers have come forward to denounce extortions and emotional blackmail practised by the group against its members.

Yamagami expressed his hostility towards the religious group several times in the past. Back in 2019 he planned to attack the head of the Unification Church, who in October of that year was scheduled to visit Tokoname, a city not far from Nara, where Abe was killed.

Police also believe that the day before the attack Yamagami shot at a building owned by the Church located very close to the crime scene.

Investigators also found a letter sent to a blogger critical of the group a few days before the attack. In it Yamagami says he planned to kill the former prime minister for being “one of the most influential sympathizers of the Unification Church”

The letter also says that the former leader was "not his original enemy”, implicitly acknowledging that Abe did not have enjoyed exceptionally close relations with the Church.

Police report that Yamagami blames Abe's grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, for inviting the sect to Japan but his grandson himself does not appear to have been particularly close to the group other than for what is politically expedient.

As a right-wing religious group, the Unification Church has developed relations with the Japanese right like it did in many other countries.

Abe took part in some of its activities but his involvement does not seem to go beyond ordinary contacts politicians have with religious movements.

For now, the investigation is in its early days, whereas the link between Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Unification Church goes back decades. Since it has never been closely scrutinised, no one knows where the investigation might lead.