A woman in Singapore was sentenced to jail today after subjecting her followers to cruel punishments involving physical torture for disobeying her as well as financially cheating them out of millions of Singapore dollars.

Channel News Asia reported the leader of a faith-based organisation, Woo May Hoe, led a group of 30 individuals from 2012 to 2020 who believed in a spiritual leader based in India named Sri Sakthi Narayani Amma.

Woo’s followers lodged police report against her mid-2020, stating her extensive abuse, causing them to lose their life savings due to extensive bank loans they cannot repay.

She reportedly swindled funds amounting to SG$7 million (RM24,414,607) between 2012 and 2020 and cheated her followerd into withdrawing another SG$6.6 million (RM23,023,224) in loans.

She has paid back the court SG$675,000 (RM2,354,386).

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The 54-year-old talked her followers into believing that she is a deity, demanded to be called lord, with divine connections, therefore solidifying her place among her fervent followers.

As part of their obligations as a follower, Woo instructed them to make several payments to “Amma” to clear their bad karma and improve their lives, forcing them to reveal their finances warning of divine punishment if they lied before persuading them to pay up.

She claims that the collected funds were transferred to the spiritual leader in India and used to buy cows or building temples and schools in the country.

Besides that, Woo also ordered her followers to buy property and cars for her as a form of worshipping her.

Woo demanded her a-third of her followers to become full-time caretakers - buying groceries, cleaning her house, cooking for her and running other errands with some leaving their careers with all of them made to report their daily activities to her.

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In terms of the punishments subjected to them, Woo reportedly assaulted them with bundles of canes or paint brushes, resulting in some losing an eye and teeth.

A follower of Woo from 2019, a 43-year-old Singaporean, has vision damage after she was struck with a five-cane bundle repeatedly, also forcing her to wash the eye with holy water and stare directly into the sun.

Another victim in the same year was forced to jump from a building’s second floor and sustained fractured on both ankles and plantar fasciitis.

Her victims were also made to consume their own faeces and had their teeth pulled out.

If one was caught trying to leave, Woo would harass them with multiple phone calls, leading the scared individual to return to the group and face severe punishments.

During the trial today, an assessment by Singapore’s Institute of Mental Health found that she has paranoid schizophrenia, at the time of her offences, linking her acts to the mental illness but ther acts were found to be “deliberate and within her control”.

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The prosecution team sought a prison sentence of nine to 12 years for Woo citing her horrific actions of abusing her followers’ “exceptional faith and trust” and “bleed them dry of their life savings”, as quoted.

The defence team however, sought 69 jail time for Woo, justifying her mental health conditions interfering with her thoughts, behaviour and emotion.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s deputy principal district judge Ong Chin Rhu noted that the defendant’s starting charges would have been higher for causing harm if not for Woo’s mental illness.