Japan's parliament enacted a law on Wednesday to strengthen monitoring of movements of religious corporation assets possibly subject to legal claims, as the nation moves to protect people caught up in exploitative donation solicitation practices like those employed by the Unification Church.

The legislation was crafted amid concerns that the Unification Church, which may lose religious corporation status and related tax benefits through ongoing government legal action, may attempt to transfer assets subject to compensation claims in Japan into other jurisdictions.

Photo taken on Oct. 12, 2023, shows a building in Tokyo that houses the headquarters of the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

Under the law, a group under threat of losing its religious corporation status must give central or prefectural government authorities at least one month's notice of any plan to dispose of assets. If a notification is not given, the organization would be prohibited from liquidating anything further.

Religious corporations whose status is under review will be asked to submit portfolio breakdowns every three months rather than the previous annual request. If the group is suspected of hiding assets, victims would have the right to inspect copies of relevant documents.

Amid criticism of the Unification Church's donation solicitation and other allegedly malicious practices, the government filed a request in October with the Tokyo District Court to disband the Japanese branch of the South Korea-headquartered group, formally called the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification.

Facing public anger over its practices, the Japanese arm has said it plans to allocate up to 10 billion yen ($68 million) to cover possible compensation claims from former members and their families over forced donations.

A group of lawyers supporting victims in Japan said about 130 people have been caused financial distress due to the religious group's forced donations, with damages estimated to exceed 4 billion yen.

The lawyers, however, believe there are far more unconfirmed cases, meaning the total figure could end up rising to around 100 billion yen.

The practices of the Unification Church came to the public eye after the assassination of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in July 2022 by a man professing to hold a grudge against the organization because of financial ruinous donations taken from his mother.

Tetsuya Yamagami, who has been indicted over the shooting, told investigators that he targeted Abe, given that the politician's grandfather, former Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, helped establish the religious corporation in Japan in the 1960s.

File photo taken in September 2022 shows buildings of the Unification Church, formally known as the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, in Gapyeong, Gyeonggi Province in South Korea. (Kyodo)

Related coverage:

Japan lower house OKs bill to stop Unification Church moving assets

Japan PM "not aware" Unification Church member present at 2019 talks

Unification Church to allocate up to 10 billion yen for compensation