AUTHORITIES FIND FRAUD IN SCIENTOLOGY
March 17, 2000
From our own reporter
The judicial authorities in Brussels have found clear indications of fraud in the
financial records of the Church of Scientology and its affiliated organisation. The
controversial religious movement has also repeatedly violated the law on privacy.
Scientology unlawfully keeps medical and personal information on its members on file. This
information was confirmed to De Morgen by "substitut" [closest US equivalent
probably: assistant district attorney] Christophe Caliman of the financial section, who is
coordinating the ongoing judicial investigation. However, nobody has yet been charged at
The investigation was launched after a complaint in 1997 from an ex-member of
Scientology, who had tried in vain to get a refund of 700,000 Belgian francs [approx. US$
17,000], which she had paid for various courses. Last september searches were made at a
total of 25 locations, by request of investigating judge Van Espen. At that time tons of
documents and tens of computers were seized, belonging both to the VZW [non-profit
association] Scientology and a number of satellite companies. Analysis of the huge amount
of data is taking longer than expected due to a shortage of staff, and the investigation
won't be concluded for another year.
Despite this there are already "very sound indications" that Scientology
committed tax fraud, amongst other means by writing phoney invoices. Scientology companies
sent each other invoices for services that were "more than likely" never
delivered. This financial merry-go-round remarkably didn't benefit the Belgian branch of
Scientology. The bulk of the money was transfered to the American headquarters of the
cult. The authorities at first wanted to send an investigating commission to the United
States, but decided against it because of a lack of means.
Progress has also been made in the investigation into privacy violations. The
controversial movement kept files about its members that hadn't been registered with the
Commission for the Protection of Privacy, which is legally required. On top of that, there
are indications of the unlawful practice of medicine.
Because investigations are still ongoing, Caliman cannot formally state that
Scientology is a cult. "But if one looks at the criteria laid down by the
parliamentary inquiry to determine what constitutes a cult, Scientology scores 8 out of
Scientology spokesman Marc Bromberg still denies all accusations: "Scientology
didn't do anything illegal". He sees the judicial interest in Scientology as a
reaction to the worldwide successes achieved by the movement. This week Sweden became the
first European country to recognise Scientology as an official religion.