Monday, December 31, 2012

Belgium to bring fraud charges against Scientologists, claims newspaper

Belgium to bring fraud charges against Scientologists, claims newspaperDe Tijd, Belgium's financial newspaper, has reported that charges of fraud, illegal medicine, breaches of privacy and extortion have been drawn up against the Church and two senior executives.
"The subpoenas have only just been sent to the scientologists," the newspaper reported yesterday.

The charges are said to relate to employment contracts issued to recruit volunteers and members in breach of Belgium's strict employment laws.

Prosecutors are investigating claims of extortion of members, the illegal use of "pseudo-medicine" and the keeping of records that contravene privacy laws.

A spokesman for the Church's Brussels headquarters said: "Unfortunately we have not received anything from the prosecutor's office yet. The media have been informed, we have not."
Scientology's rejection of many medical practices and its psychological "auditing" techniques of recruits, including the taking of personal records, have long been controversial. 

In February this year, a French appeals court upheld fraud charges and a £490,000 fine against the Church of Scientology in France for talking its recruits into paying large sums for bogus personality tests and cures.

The movement, which has the actor Tom Cruise as its figurehead, has been under investigation in Belgium for 15 years without any charges being brought against an organisation that is viewed with suspicion as a cult in many European countries.

The Church of Scientology came under renewed scrutiny following the divorce last summer of Mr Cruise and Katie Holmes, his actress wife. There were reports suggesting that Ms Holmes, who was raised a Roman Catholic, was worried about their daughter Suri's future involvement in her father's religion. 

The Church of Scientology in Belgium has existed since 1974, with its European office for "public affairs and human rights" based in Brussels and with an active organisation offering courses and exhibitions.

While Scientology is regarded as a religion in the United States, Italy and Spain, it is not recognised as a church in other European countries such as France, Germany, Belgium and Britain.