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Le Monde & Vanity Fair: FBI probes Russian oligarch financing of ‘Top Gun: Maverick’

[Yesterday’s breaking news: California supreme court denied Danny Masterson petition.]

On Sunday, just after our story about Tom Cruise and Scientology hit the home page of The Daily Beast, we received an email from a man named Andrew Eksner. He claimed that he was working with the FBI’s “Transnational Anti-Corruption Partnership with the headquarters at the U.S. Embassy in Sofia, Bulgaria,” and that it was looking into something he figured we’d be interested in: Russian oligarch money funding several Tom Cruise movies, including the just-released Top Gun: Maverick.

The first thing we did was look up Mr. Eksner, who did appear to have a record as a visual effects artist in Hollywood. Last year, at his Twitter account Eksner posted a lengthy statement, saying that in 2019 he had been hired by Paramount Pictures to find a shooting location for Mission: Impossible 7, a railroad bridge that could be destroyed for the film’s climactic scene.

Eksner wrote that he had located a bridge in Poland that fit the bill, but then, he claimed, the production went around him and the filmmakers were ultimately unable to use the bridge. Eksner claimed that they had not only dumped him for others, but they refused to pay him for his work. He filed a lawsuit last year in Poland against several defendants, including Paramount Pictures, actor Tom Cruise, and director Chris McQuarrie.


Now, he was alleging something far more sinister than the stiffing of a location agent. Eksner said that he was working with the FBI in Sofia which was looking into Russian oligarch money being used in the forming of Los Angeles-based New Republic Pictures, which had emerged out of nowhere in 2017 and had saved Paramount Pictures by agreeing to a $200 million deal to help it finance ten films, including several Cruise pictures.

Eksner pointed to some interesting circumstantial evidence to back up his theory: New Republic’s Chairman is a Russian man in his 20s with seemingly little in his background to suggest that he should be leading a Hollywood studio. Eksner was suggesting that the young chairman, Valerii An, was a front for Russian oligarch money. New Republic’s founder, Brian Oliver, told the LA Times in 2020 that the company had been created in 2017 with “funds of wealthy individuals based in Monaco and Spain.” Eksner pointed out that Monaco is notorious as a hotbed for Russian oligarch riches, and he cited social media that connected An with wealthy Russian figures there.

Well, it was an interesting suggestion. Eksner, a man with a beef with Paramount Pictures, wanted coverage of his assertion that Paramount had been saved from insolvency with an infusion of oligarch cash right as the pandemic hit, and it had been used to fund Tom Cruise films.

While we were pondering how we might look into these allegations, two fairly major news organizations bit on Eksner’s story.

Tuesday, Le Monde, the French newspaper, published a story claiming that the FBI was investigating Valerii An and the funding of Top Gun: Maverick. But the FBI itself, Le Monde said, wouldn’t confirm the story. Here’s the final paragraph:

Contacted by Le Monde, the special agent Steven M. Young, who oversees the FBI investigation according to Mr. Eksner, proved to be as evasive as the characters played by Tom Cruise, from blockbuster to blockbuster: “I can’t answer, neither positively nor negatively, any question whatsoever.”

Then yesterday, Vanity Fair France published its own, more lengthy piece about Eksner’s claims, and said that, “…revealed by Le Monde on May 31, the FBI’s anti-corruption section based in Bulgaria is investigating suspicions of Russian funding in the production of the film Top Gun: Maverick.”

There was no indication in the Vanity Fair story, however, that Le Monde had reached the FBI, which didn’t confirm the story.

We pointed out to Eksner in an email that both publications had reported that the FBI was investigating the financing of Cruise’s film based only on his assertion. We are waiting for his response on that.

In the meantime, we are reserving judgment on whether Cruise’s films made it to theaters on oligarch cash. And what would Zelenskyy think if it were true?


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Source Code

“Every time you throw a book in the mails, you see, why there was so much effort coming back toward one, and it’s neglected. Similarly, let’s say, the colored gentleman who has a good, high-paid job: sticking his head through a canvas and letting people throw baseballs at him. I think that’s a well-honored profession of one time or another in carnivals and so on. All right. So here he has these baseballs coming in at him all the time. The visible picture, you see, is made of everything, but his attention goes on the incoming baseball. Yeah, but as this baseball is coming in, actually there is a contrary reaction that he pays no attention to, because he’s interested in the baseball. He’s not interested in that contrary reaction. He wishes there were more of it, if anything, you see, to slow that baseball down. And the next thing you know, he will have too many baseballs thrown at him. Now, he’s actually the — it isn’t the injuries of the baseballs or anything; it’s just the fact that he’s built up a ridge in front of his face that consists of not the incoming baseball, but the resistance going back against the baseball. You got the idea? Well, it’s the resistance back against that baseball that sticks there, not the baseballs. So he has too many baseballs thrown at him and all of a sudden gets a horrible feeling of pushing out that way.” — L. Ron Hubbard, June 2, 1961


Avast, Ye Mateys

“Hey, how about completing TRs. One on the course is trying for a world’s record on TR 0. How about reading the HCOB and doing it? There is only one way off the course and that’s through it. 80 percent of one Class Xs pcs are on this course. For sure we want no Execs out there who can’t pass Zero. So….” — The Commodore, June 2, 1971


Overheard in the FreeZone

“When I’ve surveyed some of the horrendous deeds I’ve done on the whole track, it has occurred to me that no amount of regret would do a thing to make up for those actions. In fact, nothing I could possibly do in PT could compensate for some of the crap I’ve done down the track. And so I concluded that there was no point in dwelling on these things. Best to act in terms of the greatest good now and work it around (with Scientology) so that I’m unlikely to do those things again. Your emotions are within your control, and regret is a place you don’t want to go.”



Past is Prologue

1997: Jeff Jacobsen found pictures of some of the counter-picketers from the recent Clearwater picket and vigil in Scientology magazines. “Page 33 of International Scientology News issue 4 has a small photo of a bunch of church staff in black uniforms. The guy 2nd from the left in the front row looks exactly like one of the 3 people in Clearwater carrying a ‘Jeff Jacobsen Porno King’ sign. Source issue 107 page 10 has a photo of a bunch of people applauding inside the Ft. Harrison. The blond woman in the blue pants on the balcony is the vicious Co$’er at the candlelight vigil in Clearwater who appears on the 2nd Inside Edition article. She is yelling at someone about ‘there must be many critics of Scientology ’cause 10 of them showed up here!’ She spent the day bugging many of us picketers, including me. A very vile person. Someone suggested that the Scientology counter picketers in Clearwater were actually staff instead of public members. At least 2 of them apparently are staff.”


Random Howdy

“In the cosmology of L. Ron Hubbard your children aren’t really ‘your’ children. Instead they are just non-corporeal immortal alien beings who popped into the genetic entity inhabiting the womb of the bigger thetan who proceeds to plop it out. They would have these little thetans signing billion-year contracts with their little footprints if they could.”


Full Court Press: What we’re watching at the Underground Bunker

Criminal prosecutions:
Danny Masterson charged for raping three women: Next pretrial conference June 30. Trial scheduled for October 11.
‘Lafayette Ronald Hubbard’ (a/k/a Justin Craig), aggravated assault, plus drug charges: Last hearing was on January 18, referred to grand jury. Additional charges also referred to grand jury after January 5 assault while in jail.
Jay and Jeff Spina, Medicare fraud: Jay sentenced to 9 years in prison. Jeff’s sentencing to be scheduled.
Rizza Islam and other family members, Medi-Cal fraud: Pretrial conference June 9 in Los Angeles

David Gentile, GPB Capital, fraud: Next pretrial conference set for June 2.
Joseph ‘Ben’ Barton, Medicare fraud: Pleaded guilty, awaiting sentencing.
Yanti Mike Greene, Scientology private eye accused of contempt of court: Found guilty of criminal and civil contempt.

Civil litigation:
Baxter, Baxter, and Paris v. Scientology, alleging labor trafficking: Complaint filed April 28 in Tampa federal court.
Luis and Rocio Garcia v. Scientology: Eleventh Circuit affirmed ruling granting Scientology’s motion for arbitration. Garcias considering next move.
Valerie Haney v. Scientology: Forced to ‘religious arbitration.’ Valerie’s motion for reconsideration denied on March 15.
Chrissie Bixler et al. v. Scientology and Danny Masterson: Appellate court removes requirement of arbitration on January 19, case remanded back to Superior Court. Next hearing scheduled for June 29.
Brian Statler Sr v. City of Inglewood: Third amended complaint filed, trial set for December 6.
Author Steve Cannane defamation trial: New trial ordered after appeals court overturned prior ruling.
Chiropractors Steve Peyroux and Brent Detelich, stem cell fraud: Lawsuit filed by the FTC and state of Georgia in August, now in discovery phase.



We first broke the news of the LAPD’s investigation of Scientology celebrity Danny Masterson on rape allegations in 2017, and we’ve been covering the story every step of the way since then. At this page we’ve collected our most important links, including our four days in Los Angeles covering the preliminary hearing and its ruling, which has Danny facing trial and the potential sentence of 45 years to life in prison.


After the success of their double-Emmy-winning, three-season A&E series ‘Scientology and the Aftermath,’ Leah Remini and Mike Rinder continue the conversation on their podcast, ‘Scientology: Fair Game.’ We’ve created a landing page where you can hear all of the episodes so far.


An episode-by-episode guide to Leah Remini’s three-season, double-Emmy winning series that changed everything for Scientology watching. Originally aired from 2016 to 2019 on the A&E network, and now on Netflix.


Find your favorite Hubbardite celeb at this index page — or suggest someone to add to the list!

Other links: SCIENTOLOGY BLACK OPS: Tom Cruise and dirty tricks. Scientology’s Ideal Orgs, from one end of the planet to the other. Scientology’s sneaky front groups, spreading the good news about L. Ron Hubbard while pretending to benefit society. Scientology Lit: Books reviewed or excerpted in a weekly series. How many have you read?


[ONE year ago] Scientology hype video celebrating its pandemic response is the bomb
[TWO years ago] Steve Cannane took Scientology’s line, says unrepentant ‘Deep Sleep’ doctor
[THREE years ago] Having conquered QR codes, Scientology goes all in on WhatsApp
[FOUR years ago] Janis Gillham Grady on Scientology jail: ‘LRH had been like a father to me. So much betrayal!’
[FIVE years ago] Scientologist’s lawsuit against Jim Carrey over Cat White’s suicide survives dismissal
[SIX years ago] Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s tall tales about himself never get old
[SEVEN years ago] Scientology, six degrees of separation, and Miss Lovely — author Paulette Cooper
[EIGHT years ago] Ryan Hamilton files lawsuit number eleven against Scientology’s drug rehab network
[NINE years ago] Scientology Sunday Funnies: What Did David Miscavige Tell the Troops Last Night?
[ELEVEN years ago] Ex-Scientology Actor Attacks Ex-Scientology Plaintiff in TMZ Story Clearly Not Planted by Scientology


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley (1952-2019) did not see his daughter Stephanie in his final 5,667 days.
Valerie Haney has not seen her mother Lynne in 2,683 days.
Katrina Reyes has not seen her mother Yelena in 3,188 days
Sylvia Wagner DeWall has not seen her brother Randy in 2,738 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 1,728 days.
Geoff Levin has not seen his son Collin and daughter Savannah in 1,619 days.
Christie Collbran has not seen her mother Liz King in 4,925 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 2,794 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 3,568 days.
Doug Kramer has not seen his parents Linda and Norm in 1,899 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 4,372 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 3,688 days.
Dylan Gill has not seen his father Russell in 12,254 days.
Melissa Paris has not seen her father Jean-Francois in 8,173 days.
Valeska Paris has not seen her brother Raphael in 4,341 days.
Mirriam Francis has not seen her brother Ben in 3,921 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 4,183 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 3,219 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 2,934 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 2,459 days.
Julian Wain has not seen his brother Joseph or mother Susan in 814 days.
Charley Updegrove has not seen his son Toby in 1,989 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 6,540 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 3,689 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 4,009 days.
Roger Weller has not seen his daughter Alyssa in 8,864 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 3,983 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 2,339 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 6,642 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 2,748 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis in 3,146 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 3,022 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 2,605 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 3,100 days.
Mary Jane Barry has not seen her daughter Samantha in 3,354 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 14,463 days.


Posted by Tony Ortega on June 2, 2022 at 07:00

E-mail tips to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We also post 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 new book with Paulette Cooper, Battlefield Scientology: Exposing L. Ron Hubbard’s dangerous ‘religion’ is now on sale at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats. Our book about Paulette, 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 can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2021 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Underground Bunker (2012-2021), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Other links: BLOGGING DIANETICS: Reading Scientology’s founding text cover to cover | 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 | Shelly Miscavige, 15 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 | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Watch our short videos that explain Scientology’s controversies in three minutes or less…

Check your whale level at our dedicated page for status updates, or join us at the Underground Bunker’s Facebook discussion group for more frivolity.

Our non-Scientology stories: Robert Burnham Jr., the man who inscribed the universe | Notorious alt-right inspiration Kevin MacDonald and his theories about Jewish DNA | The selling of the “Phoenix Lights” | Astronomer Harlow Shapley‘s FBI file | Sex, spies, and local TV news | Battling Babe-Hounds: Ross Jeffries v. R. Don Steele


Tony Ortega at The Daily Beast


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