Four of the six leaders of the Scientology Church in France have been found guilty of fraud in a case that has highlighted concerns about the group’s activities in Europe.
The movement itself has been fined 400,000 euros, but the court stopped short of ordering it to cease its activities in France. The leaders were given suspended sentences ranging from 10 months to 2 years.
A lawyer for one of two former members who brought the case hailed the verdict. He said: “The court has expressed its willingness to make sure that the Scientology structure and organisation is maintained in order to control the organisation.”
The Scientology Church rejected the accusations of fraud and is expected to appeal. A spokeswoman said the facts had been misrepresented.
“There’s been a complete misunderstanding and lack of knowledge of what Scientology is about,” she said.
The case centred on complaints that the two former members were cajoled into spending tens of thousands of euros on personality tests, vitamin cures and other items.
France regards Scientology as a sect rather than a religion. It stirs similar controversy in other European countries.