Scientology Officers Stand Trial for Organized Fraud in France

488px-scientology_symbolsvgScientology is back in court this week. Officials are facing organized fraud charges with $7 million in fines and 10 years in prison — and could be ordered to end their operations in France. The Church is viewed as a criminal organization and a dangerous cult for years in various European nations, here and here.

What is interesting about this latest case is the charge that some of the officials were illegally practicing as pharmacists. Scientology reportedly convinced three of the five complaining parties to settle for money settlements. The case began in 1998 by a woman who said that they was first approached on the street to do a free personality test and then over the course of months was induced to spend thousands on books, “purification packs” of vitamins, sauna sessions and an “e-meter” to measure her spiritual progress.

Investigators insist that the machine is useless as are the vitamin –which they are treating as medication (an ironic charge for Scientologists who vehemently oppose psychiatric drugs). I am a little skeptical about the vitamin charge given the common use of religious groups in dispensing such holistic or vitamin based treatments.

Scientology officials were convicted of fraud in Lyon in 1997 and Marseille in 1999. It was found in 2002 to have violated privacy laws. Prosecutors have alleged that Scientology preys on vulnerable individuals to bilk them out of money, often encouraging them to take out bank loans to pay for the escalating costs.

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