Police in Bekasi, West Java are investigating a so-called spiritual guru for possible fraud after he claimed he can magically multiply money.
Video footage of the self-proclaimed ustad (Islamic scholar/religious teacher), who is identified only by his initial H, performing his supposed miracle has gone viral. In the video, H placed a piece of paper inside an empty black box before he put some spiritual props, including a jenglot (a deformed humanoid creature said to have supernatural powers), on top of the box. Some mantra recitation later, he opened the box, which is now filled with IDR100K (US$6.93) bills.
H's cash multiplier trick may appear sophisticated at first glance, but he notably did not show to the camera the inside of the enclosing part of the box. The fact that he lives in such a shabby house also throws his claims into serious doubt.
Yet H's trick is much less obvious than that of spiritual guru Dimas Kanjeng, whose claim to fame a few years ago similarly involved conjuring money out of thin air, only he clearly hid cash behind his back. Kanjeng was sentenced to 21 years in prison for financial fraud and murder.
With the police wiser to possible financial fraud from cash multiplying claims thanks to Dimas Kanjeng's case, even more question marks have emerged regarding H's credibility.
"He claims to be an ustad, but when we asked him about some Quran verses he didn't understand," Bekasi Police Chief Hendra Gunawan said today. "He's being investigated on whether he can multiply money or if this is just for fun, and if there's an element of intention to defraud."
No fraud victims have reportedly come forward to incriminate H so far.
As obvious as their tricks may be, the promise sold by con men such as Kanjeng is enough to blind their loyal followers. In the case of Kanjeng, video "proof" of his powers going viral was crucial in convincing more and more gullible and/or financially desperate people to become his followers, thus giving him even more money to perform his tricks with.
But it's hard for cult followers to be rational. Kanjeng's court hearings were often filled with his supporters, who can get really emotional and even cry tears of joy when they're able to shake hands with their revered leader.