MOSCOW, March 28. /TASS/. Russian law enforcement agencies and the FSB have raided the Church of Scientology premises in Moscow and St. Petersburg on criminal charges of defrauding investors. Russian federal agents are searching the premises of the St. Petersburg Church of Scientology in the south of the city and the Professional Association of Applying Dianetics and Scientology in the Moscow Region, where the head Scientology office for Post-Soviet countries is located, according to the agencies, a law enforcement representative told TASS on Tuesday.
"The Russian FSB and police are searching the premises of the so-called St. Petersburg Church of Scientology, other missions of the international Church of Scientology in Moscow and the Moscow Region, as well as the residences of several members of this religious organization as part of a criminal investigation into the case of the defrauded investors. The police are reviewing scientology literature and financial documents of the organization," the representative said.
The criminal proceedings were initiated in St. Petersburg, the regional FSB press service has confirmed the searches without divulging any additional information.
"Detectives have found grounds to believe that Scientologists held seminars and training sessions that they charged for without obtaining a special license. In particular, Hubbard’s followers from the St. Petersburg office raised 3-4 million rubles ($45,000-61,000) a week. This money along with donations they transferred over its headquarters in the US. Therefore, over the last few years around 3 billion rubles ($46 mln) could have been siphoned off from Russia," the representative concluded.
Based on earlier reports at the beginning of this week, St. Petersburg’s Oktyabrsky District Court registered a criminal case against scientologist Ekaterina Zaborskikh who had been previously convicted for embezzlement. According to the investigation, Zaborskikh signed contracts to provide housing and perform communal services to the tune of 3.5 million rubles ($53,000). Zaborskikh represented legal entities that did not have construction permits or own any land. Detectives believe that she embezzled the funds she had received without fulfilling her responsibilities.
In 2017, Zaborskikh was sentenced to 6.5 years of prison for defrauding investors, whose funds she transferred to the Church of Scientology accounts (Scientology’s materials are considered extremist in Russia, and a number of Scientology organizations are outlawed and dubbed extremists). The total amount of funds embezzled then was 130 million rubles ($2 mln), In November 2018, the court found Zaborskikh guilty of embezzling another 30 million rubles ($460,000) and sentenced her to 8.5 years in prison on all counts.