(OCCRP) Grace Road Church believes a nuclear-tinged Judgment Day is rapidly approaching — and that Fiji is the post-apocalyptic promised land from which they’ll feed humanity. But despite repeated accusations of abuses, including ritual beatings and forcing members to perform unpaid labor, they’ve received a warm welcome from the Fijian government, reports the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP).
In its report published today, OCCRP found that while the Grace Road Church’s leader, Reverend Ok-joo Shin, remains in prison in South Korea for abusing its adherents, and former members describe being beaten and made to work without pay, no charges have been laid in Fiji, where a police investigation remains open.
Christopher Pryde, Fiji’s Director of Public Prosecutions, says there there’s not enough evidence — but OCCRP reporters found that the Fijian police in fact interviewed witnesses who gave them key information.
The group is widely seen as enjoying the favor of the Fiji government, and received millions in loans from the state-backed Fiji Development Bank.
Thanks in part to these loans, Grace Road’s businesses are ubiquitous in Fiji. The sect now operates the country’s largest chain of restaurants, controls roughly 400 hectares of farmland, owns eight supermarkets and mini marts, and runs five Mobil petrol stations. Its businesses also provide services such as dentistry, events catering, heavy construction, and Korean beauty treatments.
The OCCRP investigation also examined the ownership structure of Grace Road’s many businesses.
It reports that on paper, many of Grace Road’s members are investors in its Fijian business empire, and are listed in Fiji’s company registry as shareholders in at least nine locally established companies.
Former members have told OCCRP that they had no control over how their money was spent, and often did not even know in which companies they were shareholders.
By examining company documents, reporters were able to determine that at least 339 Grace Road members have been listed as shareholders of the church’s Fijian companies — bringing at least FJ$22.53 million (US$10.24 million) into the country’s economy as capital investment. The ownership of each of the church’s nine companies is typically split among several dozen members, each contributing at least FJ$ 50,000 (US$ 22,730). One person is listed as a director for every company: the church’s de facto leader, Daniel Kim.
The South Korean Embassy in Suva declined an interview with OCCRP, citing “the sensitive issues of the matter on Grace Road Church and ongoing Korean-Fijian law enforcement cooperation.”
The full OCCRP report can be read here: https://www.occrp.org/en/investigations/korean-doomsday-sect-gets-rich-in-fiji-with-government-help