Wang Lin, disgraced Chinese 'spiritual guru' to the stars, dies in custody

BEIJING (REUTERS) - A self-proclaimed Chinese spiritual guru who gained notoriety for his ties to celebrities and grandiose claims of mystic powers before being arrested in connection with the kidnapping and murder of a disciple, has died in hospital.

Wang Lin died on Friday (Feb 10) after complications from a serious autoimmune disorder led to multiple organ failure, the Intermediate People's Court in Fuzhou in the eastern province of Jiangxi said in a statement.

An exponent of the ancient spiritual practice of qigong, who claimed to be able to cure cancer and conjure snakes from thin air, Wang shot to prominence in 2013 after photographs of him posing with top celebrities and businessmen were splashed in newspapers, along with claims he profited from corrupt and superstitious officials who believed he could help advance their careers.

The allegations against Wang turned more serious in 2015 when police in his home province of Jiangxi detained him along with three others in connection with the kidnapping and death of businessman Zou Yong, who reportedly paid Wang large sums of money to become a follower.

In November last year, the Fuzhou prosecutor found Wang "criminally responsible" for illegal detention, fraud, gun possession and bribery. But he was granted bail last month as his physical condition deteriorated.

The court said it would rule on how to deal with his illegally derived income and property at a later date.

Religious groups, sects and religious leaders outside government control have multiplied in recent years, as more people seek spiritual meaning following some three decades of breakneck economic growth.

The issue gained prominence in 2015 after former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang was linked to a mysterious fortune teller and healer during his corruption and abuse of power trial. Zhou was jailed for life the same year.

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