It's been a difficult month for Aum Shinrikyo. The finalization of the death sentence for its founder, Chizuo Matsumoto, was followed by a nationwide raid on the cult's facilities. And now Aum members are squabbling among themselves over payments to Matsumoto's wife.
Matsumoto, 51, was sentenced to die for crimes that caused the deaths of 27 people, including two sarin nerve gas attacks.
Aum Shinrikyo, which now calls itself Aleph, pays Matsumoto's wife, Tomoko, 400,000 yen a month, ostensibly in fees for the use of paintings that she produced.
In actuality, the money supports Matsumoto's family, sources said.
The money paid to Matsumoto's wife has come under scrutiny by members as the cult is being kept under close watch by public security authorities.
The cult also failed to complete its payments of 960 million yen in compensation to victims of Aum crimes, as determined in 2000.
The amount was due to be paid over a period of five years. However, by the time this deadline elapsed, the cult had paid only 560 million yen, leading the bankruptcy administrator to extend the payment period by three years.
The cult itself has divided into two factions: a breakaway group headed by Fumihiro Joyu, and those who remain loyal to the disgraced former leader.
Ending the payments to Matsumoto's wife was first put forward in August by Joyu, group members said.
However, those loyal to Matsumoto insist that stopping payments would violate the cult's contract with Tomoko. They have since called for a leadership reshuffle.
Tomoko, 48, first received payments for the paintings in December 2002, two months after she was released from prison and joined her children in Ibaraki Prefecture.
She had been given a six-year term for her role in the murder of a former follower.
Tomoko declared that she had severed all ties with the cult, and stipulated that it could not use her paintings of Hindu gods Siva--of whom Chizuo Matsumoto claimed to be a reincarnation--and Vishnu without her permission.
Aleph then agreed to pay monthly fees for the paintings for five years.
The cult uses copies of the paintings to decorate the altar at its headquarters, and further copies are given to followers. Tomoko has the original paintings in her possession.
According to the Joyu group, Joyu told the bankruptcy administrator Tuesday he would persuade the other group to stop paying Tomoko.
The Joyu group also sent 4 million yen to the administrator Wednesday as part of the compensation payment. It also said it will continue to pay compensation to the victims separately from its rival group.