|Global Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction:
A Case Study on the Aum Shinrikyo
Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations
October 31, 1995 Staff Statement
One reason why we in the United States should be concerned about the Aum is because of the truly global nature of the cult. In this section we will examine the Aum's activities in seven different countries on four different continents, including Russia and the United States.
Through a number of private and government sources, including Aum documents, the staff has confirmed that the Aum began its activities in Russia in 1991 and the organization there quickly grew to become the Aum's largest organization in the world. The first followers registered in Moscow in 1991 and, in June 1992, the Russian Ministry of Justice registered the cult as an official religious organization.
There are many allegations in the Japanese and Russian press about Aum activities in Russia. The Staff was unable to confirm many of these allegations whilein Moscow investigating this issue. Through briefings over the last several months, the Staff also learned that U.S. government officials have been unable to confirm or deny many of the allegations.
Following the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, two Russian Duma committees began investigations of the Aum -- the Committee on Religious Matters and the Committee on Security Matters. A report from the Security Committee states that the Aum's followers numbered 35,000, with up to 55,000 laymen visiting the sect's seminars sporadically. This contrasts sharply with the numbers in Japan which are 18,000 and 35,000 respectively. The Security Committee report also states that the Russian sect had 5,500 full-time monks who lived in Aum accommodations, usually housing donated by Aum followers. Russian Aum officials, themselves, claim that over 300 people a day attended services in Moscow. The official Russian Duma investigation into the Aum described the cult as a closed, centralized organization.
The Russian Duma has reported that the Aum had eleven branches outside of Moscow and at least seven inside of Moscow. Some of the other Aum headquarters in Russia were located in St. Petersburg, Kazan, Perm, Vorkuta, Tyumen, Samara, Vladivostok, Elista, and Vladikavkaz.
According to Russian press reports, the Aum was very specific in targeting its recruiting in Russia. The majority of the Russian Aum members were disaffected university students. According to a Russian press report that claims to have access to forms that prospective Aum members filled out, the sect asked prospective members to choose the subjects among 24 fields they wanted to pursue in the future. Physics, chemistry, and biology were reportedly the top three areas listed.
Based upon official Japanese documents and numerous press reports and Staff interviews, the Staff has confirmed that in 1992 the Aum bought radio time from one of the largest radio stations in Russia - the state-run Mayak Radio -- under a three-year contract. The contract cost $800,000 per year, according to a Russian press report. The Staff has confirmed that the Aum broadcast an hour long program on a daily basis. The broadcasts were also relayed via an Aum radio tower in Vladivostok to Japan every evening. The Staff was told by U. S. and Russian government sources that the Aum, also, either owned or leased a radio station in Vladivostok. Aum programs were also televised on Russia's "2X2" television station.
A Russian press report claims that according to a sect document distributed to Russian followers, the Aum planned to form a company in Russia. The document states that Asahara was predicting an economic crisis in Russia that would lead to increased unemployment. The document asked Aum followers in Russia to quit their jobs and work for this company. The document said that Aum would train its Russian followers in agriculture, medicine, science, and legal services.
Japanese and Russian press reports claim that the Aum formed a security company in Moscow in 1994. Japanese reporters obtained copies of the registration papers for this company, called "Aum Protect." According to the address on the registration documents, the firm was located in the same building as the Aum's Moscow headquarters and was established with initial reserves of 2.5 million rubles (approximately $160,000). The Japanese press claims that this Aum company's staff of twelve had permits to bear ms from Russian authorities and they had received special training in the Russian armed forces. According to former Russian Aum members, quoted in the Russia and Japanese press, "Aum Protect" was used to put physical pressure on sect members who wished to leave the cult.
Even before the Tokyo sarin gas subway incident, the Aum had become controversial in Russia. According to Russian press reports, at the end of 1992, parents of cult members, lead by a Russian Orthodox priest who claims to have deprogrammed up to fifty Aum members, initiated a civil lawsuit against the sect. On July 15, 1994, Russia's Ministry of Justice annulled the registration of the Russian branch of the Aum on technicalities having to do with the registration procedure, according to Russian press reports. A few weeks later, however, the organization was re-registered by the Moscow Department of Justice as "Moscow's Aum Religious Association." Aum also registered a "Committee for thDefense of Freedom" at this time. It is this defense committee that fought the parents' group three year fight against the Aum, according to Russian and Japanese press reports.
Following the subway attack, activities against the Aum in Russia intensified. By mid-April 1995, President Yeltsin publicly ordered Russia's Prosecutor General, the Federal Security Service, and the Commission for Religious Organizations in the Russian government to thoroughly investigate the Aum. In response to this edict, Russian press reports indicate that the Russian court that had been hearing the parents' lawsuit against the Aum banned all of the Aum's activities in Russia. The court charged that the Aum was harming Russia's young people and criticized Mayak Radio and the Russian television station for allowing Aum propaganda on its airwaves. The Aum was ordered to pay 20 billion rubles (4 million dollars) to the defendants and it lost its registration as an official religion. The group was also banned from further television and radio broadcasting. Despite these actions, an Aum official in Moscow said: "...Aum will not cease to exist in Russia. We shall continue to exist in other forms, but we shall prevail by all means."
According to Russian press reports, in June of 1995 the parent group that had originally initiated the court case against the Aum, charged that the Aum continued to operate underground. By July 1995, the Russian press stated that Russian authorities began arreing Aum members. In early July, Russian authorities detained the leader of the Tatarstan branch of the Aum. The leader there told Russian reporters that his branch had 200 followers. On July 21, 1995, Russian law enforcement officials arrested one of the leaders of the Russian branch of the sect, Outi Toshiyatsu, who is a Japanese citizen. Russian authorities charged Toshiyatsu with organizing groups that infringe on citizens' rights and with causing material damage by cheating or breaching confidence. There has been no trial yet.
The press as well as the parent's organization opposed to the Aum, have publicly criticized the inaction of Russian authorities in closing the Aum headquarters in Moscow following the court's decree. According to their allegations, only one of the Aum's seven centers was closed immediately. In that center, reporters claim that authorities found powders and unpackaged tablets." Russian press reports claim that Russian officials did not move to close the remaining centers until at least a week after the court order to close the Aum premises and that by then, those centers were completely emptied, all their contents having been removed.
It is clear that the Aum was interested in the technology and weapons that are available in Russia. The major proponent of the sect's expansion into Russia was the Aum's Construction Minister Kiyohide Hakawa. He was also the mastermind of the Aum's attempts to arm itself, according to Japanese officials and cult documents.
In total, Hayakawa visited Russia 21 times from 1992-1995, spending a total of 180 days there. The first recorded visit took place from January 11-20, 1992. He visited three other times before mid-March of that year -- presumably paving the way for Asahara's late March visit. From November 1993 to April 1994, Hayakawa visited Russia regularly between one and two times a month. Hayakawa was in Russia from March 17-22 of this year during the sarin attack in Tokyo. He said that he was there to learn about the judiciary system and to renew broadcasting contracts.
The Staff believes that Hayakawa played a key role in obtaining technology and weapons from Russia. Hayakawa helped to purchase a Soviet-made MI-17 helicopter and invited Russian engineers to Japan to help train sect members to maintain the helicopter, according to official Japanese documents.
According to a Japanese Diet member who was giving a report to the Japanese legislature, the helicopter was built in Tatarstan. The Japanese official states that Russian law enforcement authorities were conducting a probe into an alleged bribe of a former Russian parliamentarian in connection with the purchase of the helicopter, according to the Japanese press. The Diet member said that the former Russian parliamentarian allegedly helped expedite the acquisition through Azerbaijan and that the Russian lawmaker under investigation is from the Caucasus and has great influence in that region.
The Staff has confirmed that the helicopter passed through Japanese Customs in 1994 via Azerbaijan Air and that the Aum subsequently inquired about certification for a larger MI-26 helicopter and requirements to fly an MI-26 to Japan from Russia. As indicated in section VI(C), infra, Aum members received helicopter training in the United States in late 1993.
Japanese police sours also allege that Hayakawa brought pistol models to Japan from Russia in the Spring of 1994 in order to produce the pistols in Japan, according to press reports. These sources also claim that documents seized from Hayakawa upon his arrest included blueprints for the Soviet Kalashnikov assault rifle.
There are many allegations that Aum members may have received military training in Russia.
- Regulation program $2,800 to military
- 1st Day tank armored vehicle ride inside
- 2nd Day various guns, rocket cannon, machine gun
- 3rd Day rifle machine gun
- 4th Day rest
The Chief of Staff of the Far Eastern Military District of Ruia has publicly denied rumors that Aum members were trained as pilots at his base but admitted that there are many private firms and air companies with helicopters at their disposal. The spokesman opined that one of these firms or a pilots' club may have trained the sect members. He noted that in 1993 the local press published a report concerning the death of a Japanese tourist in the crash of a helicopter belonging to a private company.
In addition to obtaining conventional arms and training, the Aum apparently saw Russia as a source for more exotic, and far more deadly, weapons. At the time of his arrest, Hayakawa had information about a gas laser weapon. His documents referred to the name of a Russian city where 'There is a weapons market" and noted its distance from Moscow, according to Japanese press. Hayakawa's documents also indicated that the sect was interested in obtaining a space-launch rocket, according to the Japanese press. According to press acounts, Japanese officials said that the documents include a reference to a Russian Proton rocket and reference its prices and the need to build a base in Japan. The Proton rocket is capable of carrying a satellite. The press has speculated that Russia's Khunichev Space Center, which is the designer and producer of the TOPOL rocket, had some sort Of relationship with the Aum. Recently, however, the public relations office of the Center announced that the Center has never had any contact with the sect.
The Aum's interests apparently extended to the most devastating of weapons. There are references in the documents seized from Hayakawa to the desired purchase of nuclear weapons. The documents contain the question "how much is a nuclear warhead?" and lists several prices. It is unclear whether the references are reflections of actual discussions or negotiations.
Much has been written in the press about the relationship between the Aum and officials of thRussian government. Most of these allegations have been denied, in whole or in part, by the officials in question. Little has actually been confirmed by U.S. or Japanese government officials.
The following are some of the allegations made by Russian and Japanese press reports:
All of the officials have denied allegations that they helped the Aum. The Staff has discovered photographs that appeared in Aum publications purporting to be Rutskoy Khasbulatov, Basov, and Lobov with Aum leader Asahara. Furthermore, in a press statement quoted on page one of the March 30, 1995, Russian language edition of Mowcow Izvetsiya, Lobov admit to meeting with Aum officials but states that he was duped by them due to his "charitable nature" and neither the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Russian intelligence service warned him away from them.
The Staff has reviewed an official Japanese document that corroborate limited aspects of the above allegations. The document states:
In addition, the Staff has been able to confirm, through a visit to the Kurchatov Institute, that an employee of the Institute was, and still is, a member of the Aum. The nature of any of the relationships alleged above, if indeed a relationship existed, remains unconfirmed.
The Aum attempted to open offices in other states of the forer Soviet Union. The Staff has confirmed that there are some Aum disciples in Kiev, Ukraine. They petitioned government officials in Kiev to recognize the Aum as an official religious group in September 1993. The Ukrainian government ignored the request. The request included the names of ten Ukrainians from Kiev who claimed that they were Aum members.
In December 1993, the Aum petitioned for recognition in Belarus. In Belarus, the capital city officials rejected the request to open an Aum branch and banned Aum from using radio facilities to air religious messages.
The Aum's most intriguing presence may be in Australia. The Staff has confirmed that the Aum was in Australia from April 1993 to October 1994. From documents provided to the Staff by the Australian Federal Police, the Staff determined the cult purchased a 500,000 acre sheep farm in Baniawarn, Australia located approximately 375 miles northeast of Perth, Western Australia's state capital. In order to purchase this farm, the cult formed a front company named Clarity Investments, Ltd. in May 1993 and another company, Maha Posya Australia, Ltd. in June 1993. Maha Posya was also used to import electrical equipment including transformers, static converters, generators, coaxial cabling, batteries, meters and tools and protective equipment into Australia in September 1993.
The Australian Federal Police gave the Staff documents confirming that in April 1993, three members of Aum Shinrikyo arrived in Perth from Tokyo. The three included Construction Minister Kiyohide Hayakawa, who was also the person instrumental in setting up the Aum's operations in Russia, and Intelligence Minister Yoshihiro Inoue. They hired an Australian citizen of Japanese heritage who was a real estate agent based in Perth, to view remote farming properties in Western Australia which were then for sale. They were evasive with the agent about their specific requirements; however, it became apparent that they were looking for a remote area with and conditions. The group indicated that they wanted to inspect properties where they could conduct experiments of benefit to humankind.
The group was flown to several properties in the period April 23- 26. After landing at each station, they went off by themselves for some hours. While inspecting these properties, they conducted unknown experiments utilizing a laptop computer, attachments, and electrodes which were placed in the ground. Hayakawa and another of the Aum leaders in the threesome may have also traveled to Tasmania and an area in South Australia where a large uranium deposit is located.
Ultimately, the group decided on the property in Banjawarn, an area where there is a known uranium deposit. In April 1993, Hayakawa allegedly offered to purchase Banjawam Station for cash; however, the offer was refused by the - owner. Following this refusal, the Aum formed Clarity
Investments and Maha Posya Australia. These companies were created for the claimed purpose of applying for mining and exploration leases. In June 1993, the Aum used Maha Posya as a front company to purchase Banjawarn Station for approximately $400,000. Asahara and Yasuko Shimada, an Australian citizen of Japanese descent and sect member were named as directors of each company.
Hayakawa contacted a consulting geologist after learning that Banjawarn Station is a pastoral lease, meaning that other individuals could enter the property for the purpose of prospecting for minerals. Hayakawa did not want any unauthorized person to enter Banjawarn Station. It is unclear if he succeeded in having the lease changed; however, the Aum did purchase eight mining leases from the Western Australia Department of Minerals and Energy in September 1993 for approximately $4700 each.
The Staff has confirmed that at about this same time Hayakawa and another cult member, Tsuyoshi Maki, applied for tourist visas at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. Hayakawa and Maki arrived in Perth on September 3, 1993. Shortly after arriving in Australia, they met with their consulting geologist. During that meeting they told the geologist that they wished to obtain a ship and inquired of her what price they could expect to pay. They also mentioned at the meeting that they wanted to export the uranium ore from Banjawarn Station in 44 gallon drums. During the following week, Hayakawa and Maki engaged an Australian travel agent to make arrangements for six four-wheel drive vehicles and a chartered aircraft. The Staff has confirmed that at the end of that week cult leader Shoko Asahara arrived in Perth with 24 followers from Japan, including five females under the age of fifteen who were traveling without their parents. Also in the group were
Hideo Murai, the sect's Science & Technology Minister; Niimi Tomomitsu, the Home Affairs Minister; and Inoue. The Aum group traveled with chemicals and mining equipment on which they paid over $20,000 in excess baggage fees. According to the Australian Federal Police report, among the baggage was a mechanical ditch digger, picks, petrol generators, gas masks, respirators, and shovels. A Customs duty of over $15,000 was paid to import these items. Because of the large amount of excess baggage being brought in by the group, Australian Customs searched the entire group. This search revealed four liters of concentrated hydrochloric acid, including some in containers marked as hand soap. Among the other chemicals that Australian customs officials found were ammonium chloride, sodium sulphate, perchloric acid, and ammonium water. All of the chemicals and some of the laboratory equipment were seized by Australian authorities.
As a result of the search, two Aum members -- Seichi Endo, a biochemist and Minister of Health & Welfare for the Aum; and Tomomasa Nakagawa, a dical --were charged with carrying dangerous goods on an aircraft. The two members subsequently appeared in Australian court, pleaded guilty, and were fined about $1,750 each. The two claimed that the acid was for gold mining. These same two individuals were later arrested by Japanese authorities in connection with the Tokyo subway attack.
Australian authorities believe that the cult planned the logistics for transporting their goods to Banjawarn Station well in advance of the trip. They chartered three aircrafts and, having lost their chemicals to Australian authorities, the Aum used their real estate agent and their geologist, both of whom were Australian citizens, to obtain new chemicals for them from chemical wholesalers. These chemicals were obtained either in the name of Maha Posya or in the name of the real estate agent's company. All payments for the chemicals were made in cash. The Aum apparently went to great lengths to obtain these chemicals, including flying one of their members over 4,000 miles from Perth to Melbourne to obtain two 25 gram bottles of a chemical unavailable in Perth. The two bottles cost the Aum a total of $136 -- in order to obtain them, the Aum spent over $800 in airfare.
The Aum also tried to hire earthmoving equipment from a mining operation at an adjoining station. The mine operators refused to lend the equipment without a mine worker to operate it to which the Aum did not agree. A backhoe was hired by the Aum without an operator from a rental company for three days, September 16-18, 1993. Digging and evidence of earthmoving equipment has been found on the property.
The Aum also established a laboratory on the Banjawarn property which was stocked with computers and various digital and laboratory equipment. The door of the laboratory was marked with Japanese characters and an English subtitle which read "Toyoda Laboratory." This may be a reference to a Toru Toyoda, a sect member who arrived in Australia with Asahara. Witnesses told Australian Federal Police that the laboratory contained laptop computers, digital equipment, glass tubing, glass evaporators, beakers, bunsen burners, and ceramic grinding and mixing bowls. There were limestone or calcrete type rocks on the floor. Other equipment included a small laboratory-size rock crushing machine and two small generators.
The Staff has confirmed from Australian authorities that most of the sect members who are Japanese citizens left Australia by 4 October 1994. In October 1993 Asahara and four of the original group applied for tourist visas to return to Australia; however, acting on information provided by Australian Federal Police, the immigration department refused them visas, along with visas for twelve other Aum members. Asahara petitioned his visa denial with a letter to the Australian Federal Minister for Immigration. In the letter he said he was blind and needed the help of 2 aids. Also, because his life was unr threat, he said he needed 17 bodyguards to accompany him on his trip to Australia. He said that his Tokyo headquarters had been sprayed with diluted harmful gas and that during trips to Russia he had received bomb threats.
In late October 1993, two other Aum members did obtain visas. These two arrived in Perth on October 30, 1993 and stayed at Banjawarn Station until April 1994. While there, one of the Aum members petitioned the Western Australian Pastoral Board to de-stock Banjawarn station of its sheep. This petition was denied. Inspections by Western Australian Pasostral Board members revealed that several wells were either fouled or not operating and the Board called for an Australian manager to be hired for the property or the lease would be revoked.
The sect members did hire a manager. While at the property, the manager says that the two sect members maintained constant contact with their superiors in Japan, with instructions being received by fax or telephone. The manager did not witness any experiments or mineral exploration. The equipment and chemicals inside the laboratory were removed about March or April 1994 to accommodate sheep-shearing teams. The Aum members insisted that either the sheep not be shorn or that they be shorn by others who would be flown in from Japan. Approximately 2,000 sheep were subsequently sold to a slaughterhouse shortly after shearing.
On April 28, 1994 these two cult members returned to Japan. They were replaced by an Aum member who is an Australian citizen and Tsuyoshi Maki, a Japanese citizen who had been part of the Aum's original advance team.
Shortly after the sarin gas attack in Matsumoto in June 1994, Banjawarn Station was offered for sale by Maha Posya. Maki handled the details of the sale and seemed anxious that the sale proceed quickly. The property was sold in late July 1994 for $237,000, almost $165,000 less than what the Aum had paid for it only a year earlier. The Aum's activity on the property is partially known and, to some degree, still a mystery. Various police sources indicate that Hayakawa was interested in extracting uranium from Australia for the development of nuclear weapons.
Documents seized from Hayakawa include some ten pages written during Hayakawa's April-May 1993 visit to Australia which refer to the whereabouts of properties of uranium in Australia, including one reference praising the quality of the uranium in the state of South Autralia. Australia is one of the world's leading exporters of uranium ore.
It appears, however, that the Aum was interested in more than just mining on the Banjawam property. The Chairwoman for the aboriginal community living near the sheep station, Phyllis Thomas, said that she and other Aborigines saw about five people wearing full- length suits and helmets on the remote site in late August 1993. The suited sect members were standing by a twin engine airplane and others were in the plane.
In March 1995, shortly after the Tokyo subway attack, the Australian police were invited to the sheep station by its new owners who had found papers with Japanese writing and various chemicals. The chemicals that police found could have been used for mineral processing or to make an irritant gas. They included perchloric acid, nitric acid, ferric chloride, ammonia solution, hydrochloric acid, chloroform, potassium dichromate, and other unidentified solutions.
The Staff has confirmed that these chemicals are almost identical to the chemicals carried on board the aircraft by Asahara and his people when they flew to Perth in 1993. Only 2-3 liters of each chemical was found in an outhouse which bore a sign saying "Laboratory,' while larger quantities were located in a portable building. Although the Aum members had originally stated that the chemicals they sought to bring into Australia were for the purposes of gold mining, there was no evidence of gold mining having been carried out.
The current owners of the property have stated that the Japanese occupants had a number of gas masks in their possession but that they took them when they left. One gas mask was left behind and seized by Australian police. Paper dust masks were also located in a plastic bag bearing Japanese writing.
The Staff has confirmed that the Aum conducted experiments with sarin on sheep at its property in Banjawarn. The Australian Justice Minister, Duncan Kerr said that members of the Aum tested sarin in Australi before the Tokyo subway attack. He said that tests on wool and soil samples taken from the Banjawarn station had confirmed traces of the chemical. Kerr said that sarin residue had been found in and near a group of about 29 dead sheep on the station.
Specifically, traces of the acid that results when sarin breaks down was found in the soil and in the wool of the sheep found in the area. In addition, authorities found a document writn in Japanese and titled 'Banjawam Station." This document suggested the sect may have been experimenting on sheep. The document contained notations for classifying dead or injured sheep by using unique Japanese markings. Australian Federal Police have also confirmed that some of the sheep were killed with blunt force to the head.
The Aum Shinrikyo came to the United States officially in late 1987 when it incorporated in New York City under the name Aum USA Company, Ltd., a not-for-profit corporation. Although the office purported to promote the cult's book sales and recruitment of followers, the Staffs review of records and documents, and interviews of the manager of the New York office, establish that the office was also acting as a purchasing agent for the cult as it attempted to obtain high technology equipment, computer software and hardware, and other items from the United States, much of which was intended to assist the cult's militarization program. Additionally, in the 1990's the cult utilized a purchasing agent in California to facilitate acquisition of similar technology and hardware, and military equipment such as gas masks.
The total extent of the Aum's efforts to obtain equipment and technology in the United States is not known. As indicated in this section, some of the items sought by the Aum were not delivered because U.S. company representatives were suspicious of the Aum and its purportednd-use of the product. This is a good example of self- policing by the private sector and efforts to sensitize industry to their responsibility should be promoted. Other purchases appear to have been preempted only by the Aum's March 20th attack which gave notice to all of their criminal intentions. And, in certain instances, the Aum was simply able to access technology whose use is still unaccounted for. Although the Staff is aware that U.S. government agencies are investigating this activity, ultimately, we will never know how successful the Aum was in its efforts to militarize in the U. S.
According to corporate records, the New York City office was initially organized by Fumihiro Joyu, who claimed his address at 53 Crosby Street in New York. At various times it was staffed by different personnel including Yumiko Hiraoka, Yasua Hiramatsu, Masuru Jingo, Isao Yamamoto and others. From 1988 through the present the cult also maintained a small office at 8 East 48th Street; #2E; 242 East 87 Apt 5d; 8 East 48th Street Apt. 4f.
The articles of incorporation were amended in 1988 and at that time Chisuo Matsumoto appeared as Director of the corporation. Chisuo Matsumoto is the lay name of Asahara. The articles established the Aum as a tax exempt organization. That same year, Joyu, as Treasurer/Director registered Aum USA as a charity in New York. In the section of the application requesting a description of the organization, Joyu wrote: "AUM U.S.A. Co. Ltd. is a non profit religious organization. The purposes for which the corporation is formed are to foster spiritual development through the study and practice of eastern philosophy and religion to encourage means for extending awareness(sic), such as meditation, seminars, classes, workshops, to offer nutritional information and exercises which will further the development of spiritual well-being."
In the early 1990's corporate documents of the Aum and tax records indicated that Yumiko Hiraoka became the primary manager of the Aum's New York office where all office related documents (bills, ledgers, accounts, tax records) were in her name.
Hiraoka describes herself as a nun and sect leader of the New York branch of the cult. She indicated she is in her early 40's, although she is unable to be more exact as she measures her age in "monk" years. Based upon observations made by the Staff during interviews with her, she clearly is still a devotee of Asahara.
The Staff has reviewed the business records of the cult's New York Office provided by Hiraoka pursuant to subpoena. It should be noted that the records provided may not reflect all of the cult's activities. According to Hiraoka, in late March 1995, within days after the subway attack in Tokyo, Hiramatsu appeared at the New York Office and took numerous records of the cult's transactions back to Japan.
There is substantial documentation of efforts by Hiraoka and her staff to sell dozens of books published by the Aum such as Is Aum Shinrikyo Insane?, The Secret Method to Develop Your Superhuman Power, The Doom's Day, and Curable High Blood Pressure. A review of the records provided, however, establishes that the cult in the years preceding the attack sold less than 100 books per year. During this same time period, despite a claim of aggressive recruitment by Hiraoka, the cult maintained an active membership of less than a few dozen devotees in the New York area. Some governmental sources estimate that the number was much higher, closer to 200. There is no evidence to support the higher number.
There was also an Aum member in Colorado, according to Hiraoka, who was in regular contact with the New York Office and translated Asahara's work into English.
A review of the telephone records reflects very substantial telephone communications both internationally to Japan and elsewhere including Canada, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Taiwan, Israel, Australia, Sri Lanka, Ghana and Nigeria, and domestically within the United States. As expected, there was substantial telephone activity in the days following the March 20, 1995 subway attack.
Interestingly, in the days following the subway attack, the New York Office of the cult recognized they had a substantial public relations problem. It transmitted the following message to numerous "experts" or "would-be experts": "To Whom It May Concern: The Independent Research Committee for the Tokyo Subway Gas Attack urgently needs a group of impartial specialists from various fields. Please read the following guidelines and call (212)421-3687 if interested in this investigation. We will greatly appreciate your cooperation."
Telephone records also support substantial contacts with news media outlets.
The Staffs investigation further reflects that the cult's New York office was actively involved in the procurement and attempted procurement of high technology items with possible military use. Though most of the documents at the Aum's headquarters were taken by the cult after the Tokyo incident, entries in the Aum's ledger reflect various payments to technology and laser companies. The cult utilized various corporate entities to facilities these transactions including its primary alter ego, Aum USA Company LTD., and the company Maha Posya.
In documents receivd from Hiraoka the above entities claim the cult's New York offices as their corporate headquarters or their New York office. Both Aum USA and Maha Posya have Chisuo Matsumoto (a/k/a Asahara) as their director. Further, other directors and officers of these corporations are Aum members. Undoubtedly, based upon the above, R is clear that these corporations were alter egos of the cult itself wholly controlled by the cult and intended to conduct the cult's business.
Through these companies and the effortof its agents including Hiraoka, Hiramatsu and others, the Aum negotiated for purchase of various items.
In August 1993, the cult attempted to obtain a Mark IVxp Interforometer from the Zygo Corporation in Middlefield, Connecticut. The Mark IVxp is a laser measuring system primarily used for measuring lens systems, optical components and flat and spherical surfaces. A dual commercial/military use item, the system has numerous applications including the measuring of plutonium. The U.S. Commerce Department prohibits the export of this machine to certain countries including Libya, Iran, North Korea and Cuba.
In August of 1993, representatives of Zygo received contacts from the Aum, including telefaxes from Hiraoka. On August 23, Zygo issued a price quotation for the Mark IVxp system at $102,777.96. Additionally, the Aum requested a vibration isolation table which with modest reconfiguration can be used to measure spherical surfaces including plutonium used in nuclear weapons.
Ultimately, the Aum did not receive the system. According to Zygo, the transaction was never consummated because Zygo became suspicious of the transaction and contacted export licensing authorities.
In 1994, the Aum completed two sales transactions with Lydall Technical Paper of Rochester, New Hampshire, totaling approximately $32,000, for HEPA media, which is an air filtration media. This media, which is roll goods, is utilized for air filtration in "clean rooms." The Staff would note that the Aum constructed "clean rooms" at their compounds in Tokyo in facilitate the handling and production of sarin and other chemical and biological weapons.
In January 1995, the Aum purchased molecular modeling software from Cache Scientific of Beaverton, Oregon. According to representatives with Cache, the entire contact with the Aum consisted of a telephone call requesting literature, a sales order and a shipment. The shipment cost approximately $2995.00. The software purchased was the most basic in their product line, consisting of a manual and computer diskettes.
According to Cache representatives, their product enables a chemist to synthesize molecular experimentation on a computer screen instead of in a laboratory, which results in savings of time and money. He also stated that downloads from other databanks (i.e., Brookhaven"s Protein Data Bank) could be ported into Cache programs for analysis and data modeling. In a similar effort, Hiramatsu, on behalf of the Aum, contacted Biosym Technologies, Incorporated, also a molecular design software company, located in San Diego. During February and March of 1995, Hiramatsu negotiated with Biosym for the purchase of a sophisticated computer hardware system and over twenty [error] hardware for $47,000 and agreed to a thirty day evaluation perd for the software products. Additionally, Biosym uploaded approximately twenty samples (out of 200-300 available) from the Brookhaven Protein Data Bank. According to the company, they are a licensee of Brookhaven Laboratories and are authorized to distribute information from the data bank.
Following the Tokyo gas attack, the computer hardware was returned to Biosym but the disk drive containing the software was missing. Allegedly, this disk drive was taken to Japan. The drive was later returned to osym by the Aum but it is unknown if the sect was able to download the information it contained. There were protections on the software to prevent such unauthorized removal.
The software, as in the case with other company's products sought by the Aum, is used to model molecular structures during scientific and medical research. Experts told the Staff that the Aum could use such advanced software to assist them in testing theoretical designs for toxins. It should be noted that this software is covered by export restrictions to countries such as China. The fact that Japan is not among the countries included in such restrictions demonstrate that sub- national groups located in nonrestricted countries, and who are engaged in development of sophisticated weapons, are not affected by export restrictions.
In the weeks and days preceding the March20, 1995, Tokyo subway attack, the Aum attempted to purchase a half million dollar laser system from the California manufacturing company, Hobart Laser Products of Livermore, California.
In March, 1995, Hiramatsu, contacted sales and technical representatives of Hobart. Hobart manufactures extremely sophisticated lasers for industrial and scientific applications involving cutting and welding. According to the company, for approximately two weeks leading up to March 18, 1995, the Aum negotiated for the purchase of a three kilowatt Laser Welder with installation support. The system costs approximately $450,000.
The Hobbart personnel were confused by the Aum's intended end use for the machine so they contacted Yasuo Murai, the Aum's Minister of Science & Technology in Japan. In their contact with Murai and in a subsequent meeting with Hobart representatives on March 8 in the United States, Hobart representatives attempted, to no avail, to determine the intended usage of the equipment.
From the dscussions with Hiramatsu and Murai, the operating parameter set forth by Murai, allowed Hobart to draw the following technical conclusions:
Hobart's representative also told the Staff that he learned that Hiramatsu was buying up antiquated chip manufacturing equipment and stockpiling same in California for shipment to a front company in Silicon valley. The Staff has been advised by various U.S. governmental sources that they theorize the cult intended to use this equipment to fill sham computer-manufacturing shops in Japan or Taiwan. These sources indicate that these companies would then be used to justify the importation and usage of chemicals such as arsenide, chlorides and fluorides, which can be obtained in the wafer and chip-etching business but are more realistically used by the Aum for the manufacture of toxic nerve and blood gases.
In March of 1995, Yasuo Hiramatsu contacted Tripos, Incorporated of St Louis, Missouri. The company specializes in molecular design software. This software is used by highly trained physicists and chemists to develop new therapeutic drugs in the preclinical design phase. It can also be used to research and develop biological toxins. According to the company's Chief Executive Officer, people without extensive experience in this area would have difficulty in using and applying the software.
According to Tripos sales personnel, Tripos was suspicious of Hiramatsu's motives regarding the purchase of their software from early on. Hiramatsu first contacted the New Jersey office of Tripos from California on March 3, 1995. During the course of their contacts with Hiramatsu, he consistently refused to provide detailed information on either the company (Aum) or the intended use for the software.
Tripos installed all the available "modules" of their software on a computer workstation provided by the Aum. The software had keyword protection and was timed to expire thirty days after installation. Following the revelation that the Aum was suspected in the Tokyo gas attack, Tripos attempted to retrieve the software. The disk drive containing the software was intercepted by U.S. law enforcement personnel in a shipment outward bound to Tokyo from California. While the software did have keyword protection, this could have easily been bypassed. The thirty day expiration protection could also be avoided by turning back the internal clock on the computer in which it is installed. The total worth of the software was over $507,000.
The last contact Tripos had with Hiramatsu was on March 21, 1995, the day after the Tokyo gas attack. The CEO of Tripos told the Staff that the software could be used to determine if a scientific configuration was feasible but wold only be the first step in development. He stated that biological toxins are relatively simple and the software was much more sophisticated than what would be needed to develop toxins.
Beginning in June 1994, the Aum established a relationship with a purchasing agent on the West Coast to assist in obtaining military technology and hardware. The company, International Computers and Peripherals ("ICP") was a U.S. business in California formed to export computer parts to Japan. The partners in the venture, Phillip Rupani, Cameron Hader and Kevin Singh (a/k/a Kevin Guneja), sought Japanese companies as potential clients. In June, 1994, the Aum, organized as Maha Posya, engaged ICP as an export agent.
Through telefax, telephone, and personal contacts, ICP developed a business relationship with Hiramtsu and Tsuyoshi Maki and began to obtain computer parts presumably for the Aum's computer stores in Japan. The Staff has interviewed principals with ICP and reviewed their records. ICP estimates that their business with the Aum exceeded a few million dollars by the end of 1994. However, near the end of 1994, Hiramatsu began to make requests for other items. Initially, Hiramatsu wanted to obtain thousands of "serum" bottles, hundreds of mechanical fans and equal amounts of camcorder batteries. Later, Hiramtsu began to inquire about obtaining laser equipment, survival equipment and similar items. At one point, Hiramatsu asked whether ICP knew how to obtain "arms," a plane, and "container ships." Hiramatsu told Rupani the arms were for a customer in the Middle East.
ICP told Aum representatives they could not obtain these items but directed him to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
In January 1995, the Staff has learned that Maki and Hiramatsu began to seek military equipment from sources in the United States. In late January 1995, Maki attended a Winter Market Show at the Reno Convention Center in Nevada at which time he made contact with a representative of Rothco, a company from Smithtown, New York. Maki inquired about survival equipment and expressed an interest in obtaining gas masks. A week after the January 1995 meeting, Rothco, through telefax received a request from Devenir Millionaire, Inc., another Aum company, wherein Maki requested various items incuding 200 military style knives, and various types of gas masks. In February, Maki requested Rothco change the purchaser to Maha Posya Inc. because it would make it easier to clear Customs.
After receiving a $1,906.00 wire transfer to their account, Rothco sent samples of the requested items to Japan. In the shipment were a Russian and Japanese gas mask. Rothco shipped these items without applying for or obtaining a State Department license which is required. The following month, Rothco received a request for 400 of the same gas masks with filters and its account in New York City was credited with an additional $3,195.00. Maki, however, requested that Rothco send the gas masks to ICP of Freemont, California, who would act as a freight consolidator. ICP received the items after Hiramatsu indicated that the Aum wanted to consolidate the items it had obtained in the United States. Various containers were forwarded to ICP, including boxes from Rothco. ICP, through a freight forwarder, started the process of sending the items to Japan in March of 1995.
On March 22, 1995, two days after the Tokyo attack, a source from Japan contacted ICP in California, and told company representatives that he should stop selling to Maha Posya because they were killing people in Japan. At this time, Rupani recalled the Maha Posya shipment from the freight forwarder and returned it to ICP in Freemont, California. Rupani looked in the shipment and discovered it included the gasmasks.
In 1993, two Japanese followers of the cult visited the United States to obtain pilot licenses for private helicopters. In October of 1993, members of the Aum came to Dade County, Florida and received flight lessons from Kimura, International, a private flight School in Opa Locka, Florida. The two were Aum Defense Agency Director, Tetsuya Kibe, and Aum member Keiji Tanimura. They both had U.S. social security numbers and airman class 3 certificate numbers. They received a private pilot rating for rotor craft-helicopters on October 31, 1993. Soon after receipt of their licenses, the cult obtained the helicopter from Russia
In addition to its efforts to recruit members and obtain and test weapons and technology in Russia, the Aum also established a presence and/or undertook activities in a number of other countries, including Germany, Taiwan, Sri Lanka and the former Yugoslavia. Some of these countries appear to have been used for recruitment purposes, while others appear to have been used for the establishment of purchasing companies or other businesses. In at least one country it appears the Aum attempted to obtain scientific information.
In January 1989, the Aum rented an 825 square foot office in Bonn, Germany for 6,000 Deutsche Mark per month. The office was ostensibly rented for administrative and cultural purposes. A woman named Yoko Shigimara-Haltod, a resident of Bonn, signed the lease and paid the monthly rent. Two telephone numbers are listed for the office in the name of Naruhito Noda; however, no one by that name is listed in the Bonn Population Office.
In June 1991, the Aum sent a letter to the German Embassy in Tokyo requesting permission to send one of its members, Akira Wakatake, to reside in Germany for three years. According to the letter, Wakatake had been a member of the A since 1986 and was a teacher of meditation techniques and yoga. The letter stated that the Aum would be responsible for any costs arising during Wakatake's stay in Germany, as well as for his personal conduct while in Germany.
Wakatake entered Germany in February 1992. A sign on the Aum office thereafter read "A. Wakatake Buddhismus and Yoga Center Aum." After several language courses at the Goethe
Institute, Watatake was granted a trading license by Bonn city authorities in July 1993 which enabled m, in addition to his occupation as a teacher, to sell books and cassettes of the Aum. The Aum was not very successful in recruiting members in Germany. According to press statements made by Wakatake, ten German nationals -- but. no other Japanese -- were members of the Bonn branch of the Aum. At least one member, a French national named Pauline Silbermann- Hashimoto who is married to a Japanese citizen, resided in Munich. It is unclear whether the Bonn office was used for anything other than recruitment efforts; however, on March 21, 1995, the day after the Tokyo subway attack, Shoko Asahara telephoned Wakatake in Bonn and dictated to him the text of a press communique to be given to the news agency, Agence France Presse (AFP) in Paris.
The communique denied any involvement in the subway incident and accused the Japanese authorities of wanting to eradicate the Aum. Wakatake sent this communique to Silbermann-Hashimoto, asking her to translate it into Frenchnd to send it to the AFP. The communique was received by the AFP via fax machine from Munich on March 21, 1995. In addition, subpoenaed phone logs from Aum's New York Office show regular contact between Aum offices in New York and Bonn. German law enforcement authorities have no records of any illegal activities by either Wakatake for Silbermann-Hashimoto.
While the Aum's presence in Germany seemed to have been primarily for recruitment purposes, it's presence in Taiwan was more business- oriented. In June 1993, the Aum established a company in Taiwan by the name of Dai Hanei (Great Prosperity) as a purchasing agent, ostensibly for the purchase of computer parts. Japanese press, citing police sources, have reported that from April 1993 to March 1995 the Aum sent more than 2.5 billion yen ($25 million), through its Tokyo-based Maha the Taipei branch of a Tokyo foreign exchange bank.
Under Japan's Foreign Exchange Control Law, transfers of sums in excess of 5 million yen ($50,000) to an offshore account must be reported to the authorities. According to the police sources, when Maha Posya sent more than 5 million yen at a time it reported the money as being used to buy computer parts. The sources confirmed, however, that Maha Posya had bills for computer parts imports totaling only 100 million yen ($1 million). The remaining 2.4 billion yen ($24 million) is apparently unaccounted for.
The police sources reportedly quoted bank officials in Tokyo as saying that a high-ranking Aum member, who was an executive of Maha Posya and the cult's former Finance Minister, was the individual who made the remittances to Dai Hanei. The sources are also reported to have confirmed that Aum leader Shoko Asahara and the Maha Posya executive visited Taiwan frequently in 1993.
Relatively little is known about the Aum's activities in Sri Lanka. It reportedly owns considerable assets in Sri Lanka, including a tea plantation that the Aum began operating in 1992. The Staff has confirmed that the plantation is managed by an individual named Seizo lmoto and that it uses local citizens as employees. The Aum apparently has had several problems operating the plantation, though, including an inability to pay its employees.
Following the attack on the Tokyo subway, a local organization of Buddhist monks petitioned the Sri Lankan President to confiscate the property of the cult and ban it from the country. Sri Lankan police did investigate the plantation, but nothing was found to indicate any connection between the plantation's operations and the sarin attack.
At some point, the Aum became very interested in the ideas and inventions of Nikola Tesia, a scientist who experimented in the fields of atmospherics, electromagnetics, fluid dynamics, and geodynamics in the early 1900's. According to an official of the International Tea Society in the United States, a representative of the Aum in New York City, Yumiko Hiraoka, inquired into the Aum becoming a member of the Society. In January 1995, Hiraoka, the manager of the New York Office, sought to obtain from the Society a number of books on the inventions of Tesia, his patents, and writings. When the Staff inquired as to why the Aum would be interested in Tesia's work, the official speculated that they may have sought information on Tesia's experiments with resonating frequencies. He stated that Tesia had experimented in creating earthquakes and that Tesia was quoted as saying that with his technology he could "split the world" in two. He also noted that Tesia had developed a "ray" gun in the 1930's which was actually a particle beam accelerator. According to the official, this gun was reported to be able to shoot down an airplane at 200 miles.
The official also told the Staff that upon Tesia's death the U.S. government had seized most of his papers and research notes. When members of the Society have requested information on Tesia's work under the Freedom of Information Act, much of the material has been "black penned" for national security reasons.
It was for this reason that the Aum sent some of its members to the former Yugoslavia. The Staff has confirmed that from February to April of this year, six members of the cult traveled to the Tesia Museum in Belgrade. There they studied Tesia's writings on something known as the Tesia Coil, a coil used for alternating current. The members also studied Tesia's work on high energy voltage transmission and on wave amplification, which Tesia asserted could be used to create seismological disturbances.