Thursday, 10 October 2013

Cassation IV: 'Une entreprise crapuleuse'

Scientology's religious freedom defence is irrelevant, the lawyer for counter-cult group UNADFI argued, as the state prosecutor denounced the movement as a “villainous enterprise”.

Claire Waquet, UNADFI
Now it was the turn of Claire Waquet for UNADFI, the alliance of counter-cult groups.

In theory, UNADFI was there to try overturn the appeal court's decision to refuse it plaintiff status in the case.1 In fact, Waquet spent most of her time attacking the defence built up by Scientology's three lawyers.

She started with a rhetorical flourish.

“Every religion is totalitarian,” she said: just like an ideology such as communism. “Its aim is to apply rules to every aspect of a person's life.”

The French republic was secular, not atheist, and it had a responsibility to ensure freedom of religion. “But it sets rules that should not be broken,” she added.

So when the state applied those laws against an organisation that did not respect them, it did not have to decide if that organisation was a religion or not.

“Obviously, a religion should not carry out crimes such as murder,” she added. “But why stop there?” A religion had no right to commit fraud either.

“You have the right to finance your church, but not by fraudulent means. I don't care if you are a religion or not.”

The role of the court, she said, was to establish if the facts of the case fit the crime on the charge sheet. “It is not about issues of society: do the facts fit the crime?”

So the court was not assembled to swap quotes from the philosophers: the issue of whether Scientology was a religion was neither here nor there.

“That is not the question,” she insisted. The question was, had the law been broken or not?

Religious freedom was something precious, something to be protected, she continued. But religion could not be offered either as a justification or an excuse for criminal activity. There was no “religious cloak of invisibility”.

Having said that, she noted that even the term “Church of Scientology” was confusing: was it a church or a science?

This was a question that had confused the courts in the past, she said, referring to an old controversy over a 1997 appeal court ruling in the conviction of several Scientologists in Lyon.2

Scientology had often played on this ambiguity between its scientific and religious claims, she noted. “But that is not going to work today.”

Turning to the personality tests at the core of the fraud convictions, Waquet noted the Court of Appeal's ruling that they had been organised to give poor results in most cases to encourage people to buy courses.

“The tests were fixed. They were designed to find your 'ruins',” she said, borrowing a term from Scientology. That made it easier for the Scientologists to persuade newcomers to take a course.

Waquet turned to the matter of the defence lawyers' walk-out from the appeal trial.

Rousseau, for Scientology, had earlier suggested that this had not been intended as a complete break with the court. Waquet, however, did not accept his claim that the defence had not been given a proper hearing.

It was the Scientologists, after all, who had taken up so much court time with procedural issues; it was they who had chosen to stage their walk-out, she argued. And this had happened just as the court was about to review the facts of the case.

“When they got to the meat of the case, there was no one in court from their side. They did not even tell their clients to stay in court. For me, I call that a tactic.

“I do not think there was a violation of the rights of the defence,” she concluded.

She reserved her final few minutes to put the case for her client, UNADFI, to be accepted as plaintiffs in the case.

“They refused the debate

Michel Gauthier summed up for the prosecution.

He started with the walk-out staged by the defence lawyers and their clients during the trial on appeal.3

The defence lawyers had complained that the Court of Appeal had not followed the proper procudure, he noted – but that needed to be put in its proper context.

“The Scientologists spent six of the [appeal] hearings on procedural matters that were repeatedly rejected,” he reminded the court.

They had even gone so far as to demand that the court produce documents that had been filed eight months earlier, sparking a courtroom shouting match that required the intervention of the batônnier, the lawyer who mediates such disputes.4

But when the time came to examine the facts of the case, he noted, they had walked out – and their clients, the defendants had accompanied them. “If they chose to quit the court, this did not damage their rights,” he insisted.

He dismissed the suggestion from the defence that the appeal court should have suspended proceedings to allow the defendants time to appoint new lawyers.

“The Court of Appeal cannot suspend proceedings on the possibility that there might be another lawyer appointed to replace the others,” he said.

“They deserted the courtroom.”

He gave short shrift too to the notion that a ministry of justice circular released shortly before the trial had somehow tainted the judicial waters.

They had had an impartial trial on appeal and Scientology's lawyers had established no link between the circular and their own case. (The circular, which reviewed the legal territory regarding cults and the legal remedies available to the courts, did not mention Scientology by name.)5

Judges had a duty of impartiality, he said, and there was nothing to suggest that this circular had undermined it. “If we had to consider every case on this basis we woud judge nobody,” he concluded, with a trace of exasperation.

As for the convictions for organised fraud, said Gauthier: “They refused the debate.”

He recapped the main points of the appeal court findings:
  • the Personality Test had been devoid of scientific value and had sought to exploit people's weak points, their “ruins” in Scientology terminology;
  • the hard-sell tactics used against the plaintiffs involved pressure to buy courses that extended to calls at home and at the workplace;
  • the exorbitant cost of membership of the International Association of Scientologists;
  • the electropsychometer, the device used in Scientology auditing, which was manufactured for a fraction of its sale price, which ran to thousands of euros.
“When you examine the facts, they add up to fraud and to organised fraud,” he concluded. The Court of Appeal convictions had met the necessary criteria under the law.

As far as the illegal practice for pharmacy was concerned, Fabre had been involved in dispensing the products used for the Purification Rundown.

Was it still necessary, in discussing this enterprise crapuleuse – this villainous outfit – to ask questions about freedom of religion? He did not think so.

“We heard very little defence on the basis of criminal law,” he noted.

Ever since the investigation had begun in this case, the defendants had protested that their rights to freedom of religion were being violated, he said.

But he insisted: “The convictions did not involve any judgment on their religious beliefs,” he said.

He spoke of the movement's “captive followers” and of the multi-million-euro turnover of the Celebrity Centre, which was registered as a non-profit association.6 What did all this have to do with freedom of religion?

Winding up, he said he agreed with the Court of Appeal finding that had refused UNADFI's bid for plaintiff status.

But he did not think that the Court of Appeal order to pay the plaintiff Aude-Claire Malton damages should stand, given that she had pulled out of both the civil and criminal proceedings before the start of the trial on appeal.

That was the only point on which he disagreed with the Court of Appeal's judgment.

After hearing some brief responses from Scientology's lawyers, the court announced it would hand down its judgment on Wednesday, October 16.
1   UNADFI Stands for L'Union Nationale des Associations pour la Défense des Familles et de l’Individu (National Union of Associations for the Defence of Families and the Individual)
2   Briefly, in 1997 the Lyon Court of Appeal, while confirming the convictions of several Scientologists, appeared to acknowledge that Scientology was a religion, which was greeted as a victory by the movement at the time. The then interior minister Jean-Pierre Chévènement was to dismiss the significance of this part of the judgment, saying that it was not for the court to make that call. That part of the appeal judgment ruling was struck down by the Cour de Cassation in its June 30, 1999 ruling.
3   In case this is not already clear, a French appeal trial is a rehearing of the case, effectively a fresh trial in a higher court: it is not just restricted to a debate over points of law.
4   For more on this row, see “Paris Appeal Trial II” and “Paris Appeal Trial III” elsewhere at this site.
5   For more on this controversy, see “Scientology Cries Foul II” elsewhere at this site.
6   During the summing up at the original trial in 2009, the prosecution cited the following figures: the non-profit Celebrity Centre’s turnover for “religious services” was 11.2 million francs in 1998 (1.7 million euros); and 12.5 million francs in 1999 (1.9 million euros), he said.
In 1998 it held assets of 37.3 million francs (5.7 million euros) spread across 17 different bank accounts.
These figures differ slightly from the indictment, which were even higher. That document puts the Celebrity Centre’s turnover at 17 million francs (nearly 2.6 million euros) for 1999 – and mentions a 1999 French parliamentary report that put the overall turnover for Scientology’s operations in France at 60 million francs (9.15 million euros).
See “...for the Prosecution II”, elsewhere on this site.


  1. The criminal organisation known as the "church" of $cien5ology knows that it cannot win the appeal on the merits of the case in actual criminal law, so it continues to blow smoke out of, ehrm, its expensive lawyers.

    At least the Co$ stopped short of declaring what others consider actual crimes to be protected religious expression (the way they did in a Wollersheim appeal, when defending "fair game" as religious expression).

    Also noted that the lawyer for the Co$ claimed to address all of the questions about the OCA by stating that a farcical claim of somehow being scientific was the only problem with the OCA. It's not, it's the use of the OCA to hoodwink victims into showing their weak side which is then ruthlessly exploited by the sales-person who is only there to "find their ruin."

  2. Great summary, thanks Jonny!

  3. " discussing this enterprise
    crapuleuse – this villainous
    outfit –..."

    Every time I see that phrase I think "enterprise of crapola" and I smile. :)

    Well done Jonny, thanks for providing this comprehensive replay of the proceedings.

  4. chuckbeattyexseaorg75to0312 October 2013 at 19:09

    Amazing coverage Jonny! Thanks for excerpting the trail so clearly!

    The mention of the difference between the actual cost of the Emeter's parts versus what the "church" (NEPI and Bridge, both non profit "church" corporations) charges as the sellable price of the Emeter (with all it's alluring colors and significances to the variety of "special edition" Emeters) is such a good point.

    This point reminds me of Hubbard's own private writings about his "propterties" for sale, and Hubbard's approval and demand that his properties (called "LRH properties" at ASI, the for profit top corporation that in the early 1980s ultimately was the corporate top of the whole Scientology pyramid movement, and it is ASI that made selling and licensing the variety of "LRH properties" to all of the various for profit Scientology related corporations) Hubbard absolutely is crystal clear in his final years of writings to ASI, that his "properties" be recompensed mightily, and profitably, all for the bigger purpose of ensuring his legacy of writings and "tech" (spiritual tech) sharing with the world, was suitable rewarded to keep the whole shebang, his whole movement, going forward long range.

    Hubbard was delusionally efficient, and Scientology ends up being something out of financial reach for the average Scientologist, that is clearly obvious. Only well off middle class and upwards in society can afford buying all the required materials and Emeters necessary, all per Hubbard's "church" scriptures and requirements.

    So the fraud is simply truly, ultimately, built into the system, and the paper trail of Hubbard's policy rules and then his private writings prove this.

    Lawyers hired by ASI, with ASI legal staff Ryland Hawkins (Ryland took over Marty Rathbun's position, when Marty rose upwards to be Miscavige's "right hand" man, today Ryland coordinates with lawyers that OSA has used and uses).

    It's such an in house movement ,traces all back to Hubbard's meticulous orders which are in plain sight in the green volumes (church staff rules volumes) and in the private LRH traffic he wrote to top officials all through his life as micromanager of the movement.

    Jonny cannot thank you enough to your unparalleled coverage of this French fraud case against Scientology!

    You are one of those wonderful professional journalists who do this because writing about all this is just plain right!

    Thankyou Jonny!