Scientologists fined in France

From The Irish Times.

A Paris court has fined the French branch of the Church of Scientology a total of €600,000 after finding it guilty of fraud but allowed the group to continue operating in France.

When the hearing opened, there were expectations that the court could order the group to be banned in France but legislation passed in parliament just before the start of the trial in May, ruled that option out.

The legislation has since been changed back to allow the dissolution of an organisation found guilty of fraud but because of the timing of the case, there was no question of forcing the Church of Scientology to be wound up.

“It is very regrettable that the law quietly changed before the trial,” Georges Fenech, head of the Inter-ministerial Unit to Monitor and Fight Cults, told television station France 24.

“The system has now been put in place by parliament and it is certain that in the future, if new offences are committed, a ban could eventually be pronounced,” he said.

The court handed down suspended prison sentences ranging from 10 months to two years and fines of €5,000 to €30,000 to four leaders of the group in France.

“This is an important and historic decision because it is the first time that Scientology has been found guilty of involvement in organised fraud,” Olivier Morice, one of the lawyers for the civil parties to the case told reporters.

The case was brought by two former members who said they were cajoled into spending €21,000 and €49,500 on personality tests, vitamin cures, sauna sessions and “purification packs”.

Scientology, which is officially considered a sect in France, denies fraud and is expected to appeal.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France, where it has faced accusations of being a money-making cult.

The trial, which began on May 25th, centres on complaints made in the late 1990s.

The prosecutor had recommended that the Paris court dissolve the church’s French arm.

Scientology has faced numerous setbacks in France, with members convicted of fraud in Lyon in 1997 and Marseille in 1999. In 2002, a court fined it for violating privacy laws and said it could be dissolved if involved in similar cases.

The following summary of the ruling is from Jonny Jacobsen’s excellent coverage of the trial which you can find on his blog Infinite Complacency. A big thanks to Jeff for his detailed coverage of the trial.

The Association Spirituelle de l’Eglise de Scientologie CC (ASES), the Celebrity Centre, was convicted of organised fraud against the plaintiffs Aude-Claire Malton and Eric Aubry.

It was fined 400,000 euros and ordered to pay for the details of the conviction to be published in the major French and English-language news outlets including Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération, the Herald Tribune and Time Magazine – and their websites.

Scientology’s network of bookshops Scientologie Espace Liberté (SEL) was also convicted of organised fraud against the Malton and Aubry. It was fined 200,000 euros and ordered to pay for the publication of the conviction in the same newspapers and their websites.

Both organisations were also required to publish details of the conviction on their own websites for a period of two months.

These were the sentences for the individual defendants charged on this count, against either Malton, Aubry or both plaintiffs:

Alain Rosenberg, the managing director of the Celebrity Centre, was convicted of organised fraud against Malton and Aubry; and of complicity in the illegal exercise of pharmacy. He received a two-year suspended prison sentence and a 30,000-euro fine;

Didier Michaux, the bookshop’s star salesman, was convicted of organised fraud against Eric Aubry – but cleared on the same charge relating to Aude-Claire Malton. He received an 18-month suspended sentence and a 20,000-euro fine;

Jean-François Valli, the other bookshop salesman, who also did work for the Celebrity Centre, was convicted of organised fraud against Aude-Claire Malton – but cleared on the same charge relating to Aubry. He received an 18-months suspended sentence and a 10,000-euro fine;

Sabine Jacquart, who was president of the Celebrity Centre, was convicted of organised fraud against both Malton and Aubry; and of complicity in the illegal exercise of pharmacy. She received a 10-month suspended sentence and a 5,000-euro fine;

Aline Fabre, who supervised the Purification Rundown at the Celebrity Centre, was convicted of the illegal exercise of pharmacy. She was fined 2,000 euros;

Marie Anne Pasturel, who acted as an intermediary for G&G in France, taking orders for the vitamins required for the Rundown, was convicted of the illegal exercise of pharmacy and fined 1,000 euros.

2 Responses

  1. Fixed the name now. I hold my hands up apologise for my astronomical fail. I also take this opportunity to again express my gratitude for your excellent coverage of the trial.

    That only makes it, what, ten times I’ve mixed you and Jeff up….

    Like

  2. While I have a great deal of respect for Jeff Jacobsen’s work exposing Scientology, Jonny Jacobsen is the one who writes Infinite Complacency.
    Trust me on this!
    Jonny Jacobsen

    Like

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