The South Korean authorities detained Lee Man-hee, the leader of Shincheonji Church, on Saturday. At least 5,000 members of his sect were infected with the coronavirus, more than a third of the total number of infections in South Korea.

The 88-year-old has been arrested on suspicion of opposing authorities, BBC reports . He is said to have made contact investigators difficult by concealing information about members of the Church.

Lee denies the allegations and says he was only concerned about the privacy of his members.

The arrest warrant shows that there are indications that Lee and his church have attempted to destroy evidence.

In addition to these suspicions, Lee is also suspected of embezzling at least 5.6 billion Korean won (3.9 million euros) and conducting illegal religious activities.

Church has over 230,000 members

Lee founded Shincheonji Church in 1984 and sees himself as the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The church, which has over 230,000 members, according to the South Korean government, is considered a cult by experts.

According to the BBC, the sect is known for the large-scale events that attract many people and where hardly any distance is kept from each other. Members are said to have infected each other at meetings in February and then traveled across the country.

In March, Lee apologized for the spread of the coronavirus.

14,336 corona infections have been reported in South Korea, 301 people have died from the effects of the virus.