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Source: Scientology ship avoiding Dutch waters after evading surprise government search

One of the reasons that L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, invaded the town of Clearwater, Florida in 1975 to make it Scientology’s “spiritual” headquarters, was that he was running out of ports where he was welcome. Hubbard had set sail in 1967 with a ragtag group of young followers who traveled with him on three ships, eventually renamed the Apollo, the Athena, and the Diana. For the next eight years, Hubbard ran the worldwide organization from the Apollo, his flagship, except for several months he spent hiding out in a couple of apartments in Queens, New York in 1972-1973.

One of the reasons why the small armada kept on the move through the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and finally the Caribbean was that it got chased away from numerous ports by governments that eventually figured out what was going on and that the ships were not a floating “school,” as the cover story went. Finally, with very few ports left, in 1975 Hubbard made plans to come back to land, and surreptitiously began buying up properties in Clearwater while hiding out in Daytona.

Today, Scientology carries on its sailing tradition with the Freewinds, a private cruise ship which is the only place where wealthy Scientologists can attain the highest step on the “Bridge to Total Freedom,” the auditing level known as “Operating Thetan Eight.” (For a fun look at OT 8’s wacky early history, see our story about a man named George White.) The Freewinds also hosts other expensive week-long seminars for Scientologists, and it is the site of a very special week of festivities known as “Maiden Voyage,” which takes place in June and commemorates the formal launching of the Freewinds as Scientology’s ultimate destination in 1988.

For many years, the Freewinds for the most part plied a set pattern between three Netherlands-aligned Caribbean islands just off the coast of Venezuela: Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, also known as the ABC Islands. Wealthy Scientologists ready for their OT 8 experience would fly to the islands from Miami by way of Cartagena in Colombia.



But now, we have reason to believe that the Freewinds is beginning to learn what it was like for the Apollo before it, which found fewer and fewer ports it could visit.

From time to time, we hear from a tipster in the Netherlands who works extremely hard to make members of the government there aware of the Church of Scientology and its controversies. And one thing he focused on in particular was making the Dutch government aware that the Freewinds was using the lax oversight of the ABC Islands to its advantage.

If you’re one of our veteran readers, you know about the horror stories of the Freewinds. Valeska Paris, for example, says she was a virtual prisoner on the ship for some eleven years in a plot to keep her from her mother, who had sued the church. And Ramana Dienes-Browning told us about the degrading experiences she went through, also as a young Sea Org official on the ship.

There’s also the harrowing story of Don Jason, told so well by the Tampa Bay Times, and his story of escape from the ship. Shouldn’t the Dutch government be interested that a ship that holds the passports of its crew and regulates their lives so closely is using its ports?

Our tipster claims that his hard work eventually paid off. He tells us that the Dutch government planned to board and inspect the ship in Bonaire early last year. (Bonaire is formally a part of the Netherlands itself; the other two ABC Islands, Aruba and Curaçao, are nominally independent nations in “the Kingdom of the Netherlands.”)

“The Freewinds sailed away the day before the search was planned,” our tipster says, and he adds that the Dutch government admitted to him that the church had found out about the plan and were able to sail away before the ship was boarded. A year later, this past March Scientology lawyers visited Bonaire government offices, trying to quash any further plans for inspections, our source tells us.

As evidence, he shared with us an email from a Dutch government official discussing the planned inspection and the subsequent visit by the Scientology attorneys.

In the email, the official indicated that the Dutch government is still interested in pursuing a criminal investigation of the Church of Scientology. Our source says the Scientology lawyers apparently became aware of this, and now the ship is avoiding Dutch waters entirely.

Records of the ship’s sailing history appear to confirm this. We looked at data from the Freewinds going back to 2015, when the ship visited Bonaire more than 60 times that year. But then in early 2016, when the search was supposed to happen, the Freewinds suddenly stopped visiting Bonaire. It eventually made two more visits to Bonaire in July 2016, but it hasn’t been back since then.

From about July 2016 to early March 2017, the Freewinds spent almost all its time at the two other ABC Islands — Aruba and Curaçao. (One exception was a month in dry dock in Cartagena for repairs in September 2016.)

Then, at some point the Scientology attorneys learned that the Dutch government still plans to pursue criminal charges if more evidence showed up.

On March 10 the ship left Curaçao, and it hasn’t been back in Dutch waters since.

“Since then, the Freewinds has been docked almost permanently in St. Lucia,” our tipster tells us. “It has made the occasional day trip to a neighboring island, but hasn’t returned to the Dutch Antilles in months, which is not its usual pattern.”

St. Lucia is a sovereign nation. Do we have any tipsters who can begin informing its government about Scientology’s controversies?


UPDATE: Although there are no dates on the email from the Dutch government official, our source says that based on the shipping data, he believes the initial surprise search may have been planned for a few months earlier, back to about September 2015, and not January 2016. Also, we don’t have a date for the visit by the Scientology attorneys in Bonaire. But we do know with certainty that on March 10, 2017, the Freewinds left Curaçao, and hasn’t been back in Dutch waters since then.


Rathbun hits the troika

Yesterday, Marty Rathbun named us as one of the “troika” he’s been hinting about. Rather than make an acceptance speech, we decided to reprint what another member of this exclusive club, Mike Rinder, had to say about it at his website yesterday:

I have declined to comment about Marty Rathbun until now for two reasons:

1. I had no additional information about him than anyone else did, though people assumed otherwise. Therefore, I could only speculate about his actions and why he would do and say the things he did. I try to avoid speculating, I would rather deal in verifiable facts.

2. I considered him a friend and someone who had helped me when I was first leaving Scientology. He was in a unique position as few had similar experiences in the Sea Org and with Miscavige as me, so it was easy for him to understand. I will always be grateful to him for that – he and Jason Beghe dropped everything and flew overnight to Denver when Monique Yingling and Bill Walsh came to try to “handle” me – those sort of acts of friendship I do not forget.

The thing I find most reprehensible is to turn on those who had been friends – from Monique’s lawyers to virtually everyone he had connected with since leaving Scientology. I find this sad and ugly, and I am not inclined to do the same with respect to him.

I said above that I had no additional information – but now that he has made claims about me and Leah and Tony personally he has put me in a position where I DO because I know the details of which he speaks. I will respond simply: Marty is rewriting history (much of which he wrote himself in his earlier versions of events), recounting things that never happened and assigning motives to people that appear to be the fruits of his imagination. And he is laughably trying to create upset between me, Leah and Tony Ortega as if any of us would believe him. Beyond that I am not going to dignify his craziness with specific responses. And I still don’t have any information that sheds light on why he is doing what he is doing.

That being said, I sincerely believe Marty should seek professional help. He has lost touch with reality. He appears delusional and is convinced the spiders he sees all over the walls are real — and that it is his duty to earnestly explain his imaginary spiders to the world. I am saddened to watch it happening, wishing there was something I could do to help him, like he once helped me.


Bonus items from our tipsters

Says our tipster, who received this mailing at home: “Looks like they’re doing some direct mailing now! Unfortunately, as you can see, their stamp has seen better days and some poor sap has to hand write the rest of their address.”


Having a hard time staffing up that snazzy new joint in San Diego? Shocking.


Hey, Dave, it’s the solstice, the first day of summer. Wasn’t Scientology TV supposed to start by today? What gives?



HowdyCon 2017


HowdyCon 2017: Denver, June 23-25 at the Residence Inn Denver City Center. Go here for details.


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,788 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,545 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,891 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,385 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,425 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy in 1,137 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 663 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,752 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,892 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,212 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,187 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 543 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin in 4,845 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 952 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,354 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,227 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 808 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike in 1,313 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,557 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,666 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on June 21, 2017 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.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

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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