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New investigation of Scientology in France on criminal charges

Olivier Morice

Olivier Morice

We have a breaking news story from our correspondent in Paris, British journalist Jonny Jacobsen. What’s the latest, Jonny?

[UPDATED: See correction, below.]

A French investigating magistrate is pressing charges against Scientology’s Celebrity Centre after a long-running probe into the movement’s activities at a school here.

Also, Cabinet Morice, the law firm representing the plaintiffs, tells The Underground Bunker that two other Scientology organizations are still under investigation.

The Celebrity Centre was placed under formal investigation on December 8 in connection with the activities of the private school, the Institut Aubert just outside Paris.

French lawyer Maître Olivier Morice, speaking to French daily 20 minutes, which broke the story this morning, confirmed that the charges were conspiracy to deceive, illicit commercial practices and the misuse of assets.

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And Maître Célia Chauffray of the same law firm told The Underground Bunker that two other branches of Scientology were still under investigation over the affair. They expect to have word of their fate early in the new year.

As well as the Celebrity Centre, nine Scientologists, some of whom worked at the school, are also facing trial.

The Celebrity Centre was one of two Scientology organizations whose convictions for organized fraud were confirmed last year by France’s highest court.

And as we have pointed out before, a second conviction for a Scientology organization in France could open the way for it to be shut down here — although that would not be automatic.

[CORRECTION: Although the Centre and nine Scientologists are facing trial, even if the Celebrity Centre was to be convicted, the sanction of dissolution would not apply in this case because the events in question predate the relevant law. My apologies for the confusion. — J.J.]

We have asked a Scientology spokesman for a reaction and are still waiting for a response.

Investigators say that the Institut Aubert, at Vincennes, just outside Paris, introduced a number of unorthodox practices into school life, at least some of which were derived from Scientology.

Students were set to work cleaning the school, while cuts and bruises were treated with “touch assists” a technique favored by Scientologists. Media reports at the time said the school set no homework and used clay modelling as a teaching aid.

In interviews with the media when the story first broke, the director of the school made no secret of the fact that she was a Scientologist.

The school, which had around 60 students, was closed down in 1998 after parents alerted the mayor of Créteil, who alerted prosecutors. As we reported back in January, the Paris Court of Appeal decided to call in the case after Morice, on behalf of the families who filed as plaintiffs, objected to the conclusions of the local prosecutors office and of the original investigating magistrate.

Neither the prosecutors nor the magistrate at Créteil wanted to go after any of the Scientology organizations involved in the affair, preferring to pursue a handful of individuals.

Morice argued that was not reasonable and the appeal court decided on a fresh look at the case, transferring it from the courts at Créteil to the capital.

While several families were originally involved in launching the legal action against the school, only one now remains as a plaintiff, 20 minutes reported.

Morice is also representing the plaintiffs in a separate case, the Arcadia affair, in which the former employees of a construction company say they were forced to undergo humiliating Scientology courses as part of their training.

While there is still no guarantee that either case will make it to trial, 2015 does not look like it’s going to be a good one for Scientology in Europe.

— Jonny Jacobsen

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on December 17, 2014 at 13:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94@gmail.com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS (We read Scientology’s founding text) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

UP THE BRIDGE (Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN (Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING (Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts) 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

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