The uncle of Shinzo Abe’s suspected shooter Tetsuya Yamagami stated that Yamagami’s mother had donated approximately 100 million yen ($721,875) to the Unification Church, leading to the family’s alleged financial ruin.
Yamagami reportedly told police that he had targeted the former prime minister due to Abe’s affiliation with the Unification Church, which Yamagami blamed for bankrupting his mother due to its forceful donating practices.
On Friday, the uncle, who is the 77-year-old older brother of Yamagami’s father, shared that Yamagami’s mother first joined the church in 1991 after her husband’s suicide in 1984.
She made multiple donations to the religious group throughout her time as a devoted member, including proceeds from the sale of the family’s property and house.
Despite becoming bankrupt in 2002, she continued giving to the church, albeit in smaller amounts, under the principle of “world peace and unification.”
“I believe she was a very important follower of the church. She was under mind control,” the uncle said.
He added that the family was thrown into poverty and Yamagami was forced to give up college due to financial ruin.
“He was extremely smart just like his father,” the uncle recalled of Yamagami. “He was also hardworking and I only have good memories of him.”
Church officials stated at a news conference on Monday that it had no direct relationship to Abe, although it did with other lawmakers through an affiliated organization.
It also insisted that it had returned 50 million yen ($360,929) back to her, while claiming there were also no records of her donations to the organization.
The Unification Church was first founded in South Korea in 1954 by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, who was heavily influenced by the Confucian idea that world peace begins with harmonious families.
The church is known for its mass weddings, in which leaders officiate thousands of new couples at once in a single gathering, and its influence over conservative political parties.
Yamagami reportedly planned to kill the church’s religious leaders first but changed his target to Abe after watching a video message sent by Abe to one of the Unification Church’s affiliates.
COVID-19 also prevented him from being able to travel to South Korea, where many of the seniors are.
Yamagami told police that he began experimenting with making his own firearms around spring of last year and had initially thought of making a bomb instead of a gun.