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France

Scientology faces fraud trial in French court

Video by Philip CROWTHER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-05-26

French leaders of the Church of Scientology go on trial for fraud at a Parisian court Monday in a case that could lead to an outright ban on the organisation’s activities in France.

A high profile trial against the Church of Scientology opens in Paris Monday amid questions about whether the latest legal battle could threaten Scientology’s operations in France.

 

This time, the organisation faces a fine of up to 5 million euros and even the prospect of dissolution.

 

The latest case centres on a complaint made by a 43-year-old Parisian woman, who claims the organisation persuaded her to spend at least 20,000 euros for various fraudulent cases including medication for “self-purification”, books and an "electrometer", a device used to measure galvanic skin response in patients.

 

This is not the first time the organisation, which was founded by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s, is facing the French court system.

 

In 1997, Scientology was found guilty of fraud in the southeastern French city of Lyon.

 

'I prefer the term, "criminal sect"'

 

Roger Gonet, who was a plaintiff in the 1996 case, left after 8 years with the organisation.

 

"I always call it Scientology or the sect, I prefer the term, 'criminal sect,'" Gonet told the French press.

 

Gonet accuses the organisation of duping members and making them pay for fraudulent services.

 

"There are those who handed over tens of thousands of francs at the time,” he said, referring to the old French currency. “Now, it can be 300,000 euros per person, or more."

 

The Church of Scientology says money can be reimbursed whenever a former member wants it back. The organisation says that it is not afraid of this court case, having won so many in the past. This time though, it's on high alert. If it loses out, its French operations could be shut down.
 

Date created : 2009-05-25

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