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South Korean sect leader arrested after coronavirus outbreak

South Korean authorities arrested the founder of a secretive Christian sect at the centre of the country’s largest outbreak of Covid-19 infections on Saturday for allegedly hiding crucial information from contact tracers and other offences.

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 per cent 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.

Mr Lee, who has described 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.

Mr Lee is also suspected of embezzling about 5.6 billion won (£3.6 million) in church funds, including about five billion won that he allegedly used to build a retreat, Yonhap said.

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