French Prosecutor Opens Inquiry Into Alleged ‘Abuses’ Involving Scientology

A French prosecutor in Versailles has launched an investigation into the Church of Scientology over allegations of “bullying” and “abuse of weakness” following a complaint filed in June by 12 employees of a company in the Paris region.

The Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, California, USA (Credit Wikipedia PictorialEvidence 2009)

The Church of Scientology in Los Angeles, California, USA (Credit Wikipedia PictorialEvidence 2009)

The 20 Minutes website reported that complaints against the Scientologists were filed on June 3 by employees of Arcadia, a firm registered at Voisins-le-Bretonneux in the Yvelines. The company specialises in loft conversions and house extensions and employs 90 people in France.

France classifies Scientology as a cult rather than a religion and has pursued it through the courts on other occasions for charges related to taking advantage of vulnerable followers.

In the complaints being examined by the French prosecutor, the employees alleged they were forced to attend training provided by Scientologists, whose presence in the company had been “ubiquitous” for a number of years. Their complaints also concerned Scientology’s Paris Celebrity Center, l’Association spirituelle de l’Eglise de scientologie — a spiritual association belonging to the CofS —  several company consultants and the firm’s CEO Frederic Langlois.

According to 20 Minutes the complaints relate to events going back to early 2013. “We knew that the CEO of the firm was a Scientologist” says Stéphane one of the complainants (name changed). “He talked all the time about L Ron Hubbard, (the US founder of Scientology). But things really escalated when he called in some of his friends who he said would ‘improve the company’s performance’  “. These ‘consultants’ were hired to provide staff training.

“At first, the training lasted an hour and a half a week. Then it went on to half a day and then to a entire day”, said Julie, another employee (name changed). “After a few weeks, the trainers no longer even bothered to hide the Scientology books from which they were taking exercises they said were ‘designed to improve communications between us’ “, she said.

One 27-year-old sales woman said that she reached her limit during a training exercise known as bull baiting. “In this exercise one has to sit and be insulted for hours on end without reacting. As I was unable to this, the consultant demonstrated how to do so by violently demanding that a male colleague (of mine) give him a oral sex!”

“If we did not comply with their guidelines, we were put on the blacklist”, said Stéphane . They then made our lives impossible so as to drive us out of the company”, the employee added.

20 Minutes reports it was shown a “well substantiated, 33-page complaint by the employees reporting the departure (by resignation, dismissal or mutual agreed termination of contract) of 25 of the total 90 employees over an 18-month period”.

Me Olivier Morice - The French lawyer the Church of Scientology likes to hate

Me Olivier Morice – The French lawyer the Church of Scientology likes to hate

Olivier Morice, the Paris lawyer representing the affected employees told the website: “Along with seeking mental control over the employees, the main purpose of the Church of Scientology was to extract cash (from the enterprise).”

Engaged as a consultant for the firm’s technical teams, Cyrille Pincanon billed the firm 437,531 euros, through his company CYP Conseil for work claiming to have “improved the quality of construction projects”. As one of the persons named by the claimants, Cyrille Pincanon told 20 Minutes he denied “any proselytising. Yes, I did a job that went very well. On my scale of 0 to 110%, I recorded a satisfaction rate of 103%. I can show all the written evidence of my work…”.

But when asked about his alleged membership of the Church of Scientology and its methods, he balked: “My methods have nothing to do with anyone else. As for the Church of Scientology, I have nothing to say about that”.

Lawyer Olivier Morice added: “The Scientologists have infiltrated the company for the sole purpose of extracting funds to the benefit of the Church of Scientology and themselves personally. A total of between 1 and 2 million euros have been diverted in this way”, he alleged.

He said in their formal statements his clients also alleged that they had been subject to “psychological pressures”, while the sales team had been “denigrated, compared to spoiled children and told they were ‘pissing in the wind’ . Destabilized and constantly under pressure, the staff had been obliged to cooperate with the training under threat of permanent exclusion from the company”, he added.

The statements now being examined by the prosecutor said that employees had been obliged to participate in compulsory exercises called the Training Routine and this included “sitting face to face with others while not moving for two hours” or “repeating over and over again absurd phrases from Alice in Wonderland.

“These exercises were not designed to ensure employees worked better but rather to enslave them and make them subservient,” according to the lawyer, who has had a series of court clashes with the cult and is described as “the black beast” of the Church of Scientology in France.

Approached by 20 Minutes Eric Roux, a spokesman for the church’s Celebrity Center, insisted that for his part he had never heard of a company called Arcadia. But he acknowledged that the names of persons included in the claim before the prosecutor “did ring a bell”.

“I have no information on this case”, he said, “But at first glance, it seems to me to be bogus … “

The 20 minutes website reported that Church of Scientology representatives may be called before Caimades (Cellule d’assistance et d’intervention en matière de dérives sectaires), a specialised unit which focuses on sects, for interviews in September over the claims. Caimades falls under the government’s central office against violence to persons.

In 2013, Olivier Morice won a long-standing case which saw two representative of the Scientology church in Paris and five Scientologists convicted of “organised fraud”. The court found them guilty of taking advantage of the vulnerability of some followers to extort large sums of money. The conviction saw Scientology’s Celebrity Center and its bookshop in Paris, the two branches of its French operations, ordered to pay 600,000 euros in fines for preying financially on followers in the 1990s.

France regards Scientology as a cult, not a religion, and has prosecuted individual Scientologists before, but the 2009 trial marked the first time the organisation as a whole was convicted.

The crime of “abuse of weakness” is punishable in terms of ‘Article 223-15-2 of the French Penal Code with three years in prison and a 375 000 euros fine.

Story: Ken Pottinger

Further help from:
UNADFI : Union Nationale des Associations de Défense des Familles et de l’Individu victimes de sectes. Représentation Nationale des ADFI. Siège : PARIS. and ADFI : Association de Défense des Familles et de l’Individu (29 associations in France).

La Miviludes website:  this body “observes and analyses cult phenomena, coordinates preventive and repressive government action against sectarianism, informs the public about the risks and dangers to which they may be exposed”.

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