South Korea sect leader arrested over coronavirus outbreak

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on a news conference held by Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, in Seoul, on March 2, 2020. (REUTERS/Heo Ran/File Photo)
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Updated 01 August 2020

South Korea sect leader arrested over coronavirus outbreak

  • Members of Lee Man-hee's Shincheonji Church of Jesus account for 36% of South Korea's COVID-19 cases

SEOUL: South Korean authorities arrested the founder of a secretive Christian sect at the center of the country’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 infections on Saturday for allegedly hiding crucial information from contact-tracers and other offenses.
Lee Man-hee is the powerful head of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus which is linked to more than 5,200 coronavirus infections, or 36% of South Korea’s total cases.
Prosecutors allege the 89-year-old conspired with other sect leaders to withhold information from authorities during the peak of the outbreak among his more than 200,000 followers.
Lee, who has described the novel coronavirus 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 in February, Yonhap news agency reported.
Lee is also suspected of embezzling about 5.6 billion won ($4.7 million) in church funds, including about 5 billion won which he allegedly used to build a retreat, Yonhap said.
The sect said in a statement that 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.
A prosecution official could not be reached outside of office hours.

 


At least 8 dead in residential building collapse in India

Updated 9 min 39 sec ago

At least 8 dead in residential building collapse in India

  • Four-storey structure was over 30 years old and needed repair
  • Building collapses are common in India during the June-September monsoon season

NEW DELHI: A residential building that was due for repairs collapsed in central India early Monday, killing at least eight people, officials said.
Rescuers were working to find and free the dozens that are feared trapped in the rubble of the four-storey building in Maharashtra state.
At least 11 people were injured when the building collapsed, said Pankaj Ashiya, the commissioner of Bhiwandi in Thane district, a suburb of India’s financial capital Mumbai.
He said that the building was over 30 years old and needed repairs, which couldn’t be carried out due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Maharashtra is one of India’s hardest hit states by the virus with over a million reported cases. India has reported over 5 million coronavirus cases.
India’s National Disaster Response Force said that the building had collapsed at around 4 a.m.
Building collapses are common in India during the June-September monsoon season, when heavy rains weaken the foundations of structures that are poorly constructed or old.