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Organized fraud

October 27, 2009

A Paris court has found the French branch of the Church of Scientology guilty of fraud and fined it a total of 600,000 euros ($890,000), but has stopped short of banning the religious group.

Scientology logo
Scientology is considered a religious sect in France

Two branches of Scientology's French operations - the Celebrity Center and a book store - were ordered to pay fines of 400,000 euros and 200,000 euros respectively after being found guilty of preying financially on vulnerable followers in what the court's verdict said was the "commercial harassment" of recruits.

Scientology's leader in France, Alain Rosenberg, was handed a two-year suspended jail sentence and fined 30,000 euros.

The court convicted three others in the group of six defendants of organized fraud and handed them suspended sentences of between 10 months and two years. The other two defendants were given fines of 1,000 euros and 2,000 euros.

The court did not order the group to shut down, as had been sought by French prosecutors, arguing that the group would likely continue its activities anyway, "outside any legal framework."

Prosecutors had requested that the group be dissolved in France and fined 2 million euros. The group has said it would appeal the verdict.

Scientology, considered a religious sect in France, has faced prosecution and difficulties in registering its activities in many countries. In Germany, the group is closely monitored.

Editor: Nancy Isenson