Scientology is convicted of organized fraud in France

On 27 October 2009, the Church of Scientology was convicted of defrauding recruits out of their savings. One woman claimed she lost more than €20,000 in the 1990s.

Judges ordered the Scientology Celebrity Center and bookshop to pay a €600,000 (888,000 USD) fine; earlier plans by the prosecution to force the Church to disband completely could not proceed. The law supporting complete dissolution was temporarily inadmissible, due to a rework of the penal code.

The dissolution law was not reinstated until after the case had begun, and therefore could not be used. Judges stated that disbanding the church would force it to work underground, where it could not be monitored.

In his indictment, investigating Judge Jean-Christophe Hullin criticized what he called the Scientologists’ “obsession” with financial gain and practices he said were aimed at plunging members into a “state of subjection”.

Seven leading Scientologists were fined, including the head of Scientology in France, Alain Rosenberg. Rosenberg received a two-year suspended jail sentence combined with a €30,000 fine. Four of the leaders received sentences ranging from ten months to two years, while the other two were fined minor amounts.

Agnès Bron, a church spokesperson, likened the fines to, “an Inquisition for modern times”. According to Catherine Picard, head of the French Association of Victims of Sects, the fining might encourage more “unhappy Scientologist recruits” to bring out their concerns. She also stated that, “Scientology can no longer hide behind freedom of conscience.”

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