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Scientology’s latest drama in Russia: The mystery woman who infiltrated an org

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Our thanks to Danil Tylevich for making us aware that numerous Russian media outlets are carrying stories about a woman named Darya Varnovskaya, who spent more than a year working at Scientology’s St. Petersburg org in order to secretly gather information about it.

Varnovskaya insists that when she joined the St. Petersburg org in April 2015 she was a journalist working on assignment to secretly film the church. But at least one news outlet there has characterized her as simply a member who became disgruntled and left the church after it was raided by law enforcement earlier this year.

Either way, she was there long enough that she was hired on staff as an ethics officer and later became a registrar, a person whose job it is to get people to sign up for more courses and to give more money. While doing that job she used her smartphone to capture quite a bit of footage. At one point, for example, she catches the supervising registrar as he tells her colleagues that they’ve only brought in 4 million rubles that week (about $64,000), but he expected 5 million rubles.

Perhaps the best footage that Darya managed to sneak out during her time was something that we’ve seen elsewhere, a bizarre ritual where cash is thrown in the air.

 

 
Darya’s story first went public in July, during a two-part report on Nika Strizhak’s Channel 5 show titled “The Soul Rippers.”

On October 5, a press conference featuring Varnovskaya was held that carried the name “The shadow billions of Russian Scientologists: The American cult undermining our state’s economy.” She appeared with four “experts”: Aleksander Korelov, of the Russian Centers for the Study of Religion and Sects; Father Georgii Ioffe, of St. Petersburg Orthodox Diocese; Father Arkadii Severiuhin, Dean of St. Petersburg Orthodox Institute of Religious Studies and Church Arts; and Nikita Dolgarev, of the Center for Psychological Security.

The conference resulted in a brief story that appeared in some English-language websites, but it didn’t explain who Varnovskaya was, and it also didn’t quote Father Ioffe, who claimed that the US government had stopped persecuting Scientologists in the mid-1980s because an agreement had been reached so that Scientology would supply the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies with information about people who take church courses. (That Scientology is a CIA front is a favorite Russian theory.)

In the various news reports, Varnovskaya said that the St. Petersburg org was taking in revenue of 16 million to 25 million rubles a month ($250,000 to $400,000) in sales of books, E-meters, and courses.

She said that discipline at the org is harsh, and she has asked for the state’s protection since going public, as she expects to be the subject of retaliation. One report indicated that Varnovskaya will be giving testimony in ongoing investigations of Scientology being conducted by local authorities.

Asked if Scientology interferes in Russian politics, she said that the org stays out of politics and its main goal is making money.

Varnovskaya said it was her opinion that the only way to deal with Scientology was to declare it a fraudulent organization and criminally indict it. Otherwise, she said, Scientology is impossible to shut down, as it always finds a way to survive.

Meanwhile, she is touchy about how she’s been portrayed in news stories, at least one of which has questioned her claim that she was a journalist when she joined the St. Petersburg org. When the news organization NTV characterized her as merely a disgruntled former Scientologist, she went on the attack in its comments section.

NTV, why are you lying to people and ruining my reputation? I am Darya Varnovskaya, not a Scientologist, but a journalist who purposely infiltrated this so-called church in order to collect information and reveal it to the public. Why are you saying that I came under the influence [of Scientology] and need protection? Why did all the other channels prepare normal reports about my investigation, but you make up fairy-tales?

We’ve sent Varnovskaya a message, and hope to ask her questions about her work soon.

 
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Request to disqualify judge in NAFC case is denied

Last week we told you about the disturbing recent developments in the National Association of Forensic Counselors’ trademark lawsuit against Scientology’s drug rehab network, Narconon. NAFC’s CEO, Karla Taylor, was ordered to turn over the entire contents of her personal hard drive to Narconon’s attorneys by Magistrate Judge Steven Shreder, even though the drive contained intensely personal information about Taylor that has nothing to do with the lawsuit.

And then Taylor’s attorneys learned that Shreder not only used to work for one of the law firms representing some of the lawsuit’s defendants, but that his wife, Sandy Shreder, currently works at that law firm as a legal assistant.

But District Judge Ronald White dismissed the motion filed by Taylor asking that Shreder be disqualified because of his connection to his former law firm, saying that he wasn’t troubled by those connections.

“At a rough estimate, probably 25 to 30 percent of that magistrate’s household income comes from the law firm representing the defendant in a case he’s making critical rulings on. I just don’t see how that’s anything other than an appearance of impropriety,” said Texas Lawyer, one of our legal experts.

But that appearance of impropriety was apparently not enough to convince Judge White that Shreder shouldn’t be making decisions about who gets to see Karla Taylor’s most intimate information.

We expect to have another important update on the case for you early next week.

 
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Diana Hubbard at a Scientology event

Rod Keller spotted this amazing photograph that was posted this week by a member of the Bogotá Ideal Org’s staff.

 
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It shows Diana Hubbard, daughter of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, dressed for the Patrons’ Ball last Saturday night during the International Association of Scientologists’ weekend anniversary events held at Saint Hill Manor, Scientology’s UK headquarters in East Grinstead, England.

[UPDATE: We’ve learned that this photo was taken at the Flag Land Base for its celebrations of the IAS gala, not in England itself.]

Diana is the last member of the Hubbard family still involved in Scientology, and she spends most of her time working at the secretive International Base near Hemet, California.

Former Sea Org executive Tom DeVocht tells us that it’s really unusual for Diana to be at the IAS events, because Scientology leader David Miscavige didn’t want Hubbard family members to attend. “I’m not sure what the hell that’s about, but it’s awfully strange,” Tom tells us.

Another person who knew Diana well told us it actually wasn’t uncommon for Diana to go to the IAS gala, but always in a Sea Org uniform and in some kind of support role — to give a seminar, for example.

But to attend in fancy dress? Unprecedented, we’re told.

“The pressure to get everyone involved with the programs is getting more intense,” says our source who recently helped us in a piece about the church’s celebrities. “Trotting out Diana Hubbard, the only family member left in, makes sense. Miscavige needs every bit of help to keep the whales happy. The number of phone calls I’ve been getting to attend the IAS event is prodigious.”

 
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On the scene for Ireland’s national affairs office opening

Andrea Garner is on the scene today with Pete Griffiths as Scientology opens its national affairs office in Dublin…

“With an hour to go there is no sign of crowds. There’s no ribbon/rosette on the building but there are rolled up flags ready to be unfurled. Two people came out and Pete thinks one was the bassist from the Jive Aces.”

 
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“The flags are unfurled and the plaque is revealed…”

 
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3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on October 15, 2016 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information about the book, and our 2015 book tour, can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield

 

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