Scientology Case Sent to National Court
July 13, 1989
A $2.3 million fraud and tax evasion case against the Church of Scientology International has been sent to a national court after a district judge ruled it was too big for his jurisdiction, court sources said Thursday.
Scientology President Heber Jentzsch and 10 others arrested in a police raid on a Madrid hotel in November remain free on bail pending formal charging in connection with the case.
Jentzsch, now in the United States, must report to court officials July 18, the sources said.
In a 41-page court order issued Wednesday, Madrid 21st District Court Judge Jose Maria Vazquez Honrubia said his nine-month investigation showed that Scientology officials in Spain had violated 13 laws.
The Spanish Justice Ministry twice has denied the church status as a religious entity.
The accusations included massive fraud, document forgery, operating without a license, illicit association and several public health violations.
Several church-related organizations, including the drug rehabilitation program Narconon, were named in the court order, which Vazquez Honrubia remanded to the investigative division of the national court.
The national court must now decide whether to accept the case. If it refuses, the Supreme Court will decide which court has jurisdiction.
A lawyer for three of the accused said he was pleased the case would be in the hands of another, "less obsessed judge."
"The accusations reflect religious prejudice and are closer to science fiction than penal reality," said the lawyer, Luis Rodriguez Ramos.
Lawyers for Jentzsch and the others have filed several complaints of bias against Vazquez Honrubia, who drew national attention for his handling of the case after the Nov. 20, 1988 arrests.
Vazquez Honrubia said the investigation was "far from complete."
Police arrested 71 people in the raid, 60 of whom were released by the judge after questioning. Jentzsch and the others spent 20 days in jail before Vazquez Honrubia agreed to free them Dec. 10 on a combined bail of $1.1 million.
The court document described the Church of Scientology and its sister organizations as making up "a multinational dedicated to sales of goods and services, courses and classes."
The judge said the organizations promise "mental and physical health based on totally unscientific theories in order to obtain growing sums of money from captive (adherents)."
The order said the organizations defrauded Spanish tax authorities of the equivalent of $1.71 million between 1985 and 1988.
It also said investigators received complaints against the groups from 95 people in 10 Spanish provinces alleging personal and material damages totaling $632,000.
At the time of the arrests, Vazquez Honrubia blocked church bank accounts holding $900,000.
The Church of Scientology, founded in the 1950s by American science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard, is based on Hubbard's 1949 book, "Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health."