Tokyo, Dec 5 (IANS): Japan's lower house on Tuesday passed a bill to prevent the controversial religious sect Unification Church from moving assets as concerns grew that the religious group would attempt to hide its funds overseas as it faces compensation demands.
The bill was okayed at a plenary session in parliament by the House of Representatives, to ensure sufficient financial support for those who have fallen victim to the group's activities, including aggressive donations solicitations, reports Xinhua news agency.
It will be sent next to the House of Councilors, or upper house, paving the way for its passage by the end of the current parliament session through on December 13, national news agency Kyodo reported.
In October, the education and culture ministry decided to seek a court order to disband the Unification Church, following a months-long probe into the controversial group over alleged malicious practices including soliciting financially ruinous donations from members.
Although the group proposed last month to make available a significant sum, reportedly up to 10 billion yen ($67 million), to be held by the government to aid victims affected by the group's practices, concerns have been raging that the group might attempt to transfer its assets overseas or redirect them to other entities before facing a court-issued order that might revoke its status as a religious corporation.
In a separate occasion on Tuesday, Prime Minster Fumio Kishida again denied having any links to the religious group, following the publication by Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun of photographs of a meeting he held four years ago, where senior members of the controversial Unification Church were present.
"My position has not changed even if there are photos," Kishida told reporters.
He added that it was is usual for photographs to be taken during such meetings, after stating on Monday that he was "not aware" Unification Church members were present at the talks, Kyodo reported.
The Unification Church has long been criticised for encouraging its followers to make exorbitant donations in the form of "spiritual sales" in return for "karmic benefits".
It also witnessed intensified scrutiny after former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was fatally shot during an election campaign speech last year over his perceived links to the group.
The assailant, Tetsuya Yamagami, allegedly held a grudge against the group for financially ruining his family by soliciting huge amounts of money in donations from his mother and claimed this factored into his motive for assassinating Abe.