The leader of a secretive religious sect that was at the center of a coronavirus outbreak in South Korea final yr obtained a 3-yr prison phrase on Wednesday on fees of embezzling church income.
But Lee Guy-hee, 89, the founder of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, was acquitted on a charge of conspiring to impede the well being authorities’ efforts to battle the coronavirus. Mr. Lee’s prison phrase was suspended for 4 many years, which indicates that he will continue to be cost-free unless of course he commits a crime inside of that time.
The speedy spread of the virus between the church’s worshipers in Daegu, a city in the country’s southeast, in February and early March final yr briefly created South Korea dwelling to the world’s greatest coronavirus outbreak outdoors China. A complete of five,213 instances have been uncovered between church members and their contacts, in accordance to government information.
Prosecutors arrested Mr. Lee in August on fees that he and other church officials had obstructed the government’s efforts to battle the epidemic by not entirely disclosing the amount of worshipers and their gathering areas. Mr. Lee was also accused of embezzling five.six billion won, or $five.one million, from church money to develop a luxurious “peace palace” north of Seoul, the capital.
He was also accused of applying public amenities for religious routines without having permission from the community authorities.
Mr. Lee was launched on bail in November. On Wednesday, a judge in the district court of Suwon, south of Seoul, ruled that a failure to supply a complete checklist of worshipers and church amenities did not sum to impeding the government’s ailment-manage efforts.
Mr. Lee’s church welcomed the acquittal and stated he would appeal to a greater court to test to reverse his conviction on embezzlement and other fees.