This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.
Syekh Yusuf Puang La’lang, a 74-year-old Indonesian man from Gowa, South Sulawesi province, has been arrested for selling what he claimed to be “tickets to heaven” for Rp10,000 ($0.71) to Rp50,000 ($3.56). Local police said La’lang is a religious leader who indoctrinated his followers, telling them that buying these tickets would cleanse them of their sins and guarantee them a place in heaven.
His religious sect is known as Tarekat Ta’jil Khalwatiyah, which is reported to have followers as far away as Malaysia. The Indonesian Ulema Council disbanded the sect in June for spreading misleading interpretations of Islam. Local police arrested La’lang on Monday, November 4, after receiving reports from nearby residents.
“La’lang has allegedly been spreading false interpretations of Islam to a large number of followers. He has promised them safety in this life and the afterlife in the form of a ‘heaven card’,” Shinto Silitonga, head of Gowa police, told local media.
And that’s not all.
Police also found a guide on how to get rich and a sheet of paper detailing an event held to elect an angel from the Quran to watch over Gowa.
Offering tickets to heaven was not the only way La’lang got his followers to pay up, he also required them to pay zakat or “alms tax” to him, which was calculated by taking each of his followers’ body weight in kilograms and multiplying it by Rp5,000 ($0.36).
But wait, it gets crazier.
La’lang has claimed to be a prophet since 1999. He also officiated weddings on his followers without a license, none of which are officially registered.
“La’lang further claimed that he could extend the lives of his followers up to 15 years,” Silitonga added.
For this elaborate scam, La’lang is being charged with blasphemy, fraud, deception, and money laundering in relation to his “heaven cards.” He now faces up to 20 years in prison.
Conversion: Rp1 = $0.000071