Alleged Church of Scientology adherent gets 6 years for $2.5 mln embezzlement
ST. PETERSBURG, July 8 (RAPSI, Mikhail Telekhov) – Alleged Church of Scientology adherent and head of a consumer society Maria Sidorova has been sentenced to 6 years in jail for embezzling 155.5 million rubles (nearly $2.5 million) from shareholders of 9 housing associations, RAPSI has learnt from the United press service of St. Petersburg courts.
The Krasnogvargeysky District Court of St. Petersburg has partially granted civil claims against the defendant. Moreover, the court upheld seizure of her 4 apartments, a cottage, a land plot, a car and shares in land.
Victims in the case are disappointed with the sentence, they believe that Sidorova acted on the orders from the Church of Scientology and earned money for it.
However, Sidorova’s alleged financial links to the Church of Scientology were not been proven during the investigation. It was only revealed that the woman transferred the most part of stolen funds to third parties also known as adherents
of the organization; but their membership is not officially confirmed, according to the courts’ press office.
The court found that Sidorova’s relatives were co-founders of the consumer society Your House. According to investigators, they headed the company and were also creators and members of 9 housing associations in the Leningrad Region attracting housing equity holders’ funds. In total, they obtained 453.5 million rubles, 155.5 million of which they stole. Moreover, they acquired rights to 21 flats built on the investors’ money, the sentence reads.
There are more than 200 victims in the case.
Earlier, another woman Ekaterina Zaborskikh was sentenced to 6.5 and then to 5.5 years for embezzling over 33 million rubles ($510,000) and over 130 million rubles (about $2 million) respectively from real estate investors and transferring the money to the Church of Scientology Moscow. Collectively, she received an 8.5-year term in penal colony.
According to investigators, Zaborskikh was a chairman of several consumer committees and housing cooperatives. Allegedly she was responsible for deceiving people into paying her money under the guise of selling apartments, houses and land plots around St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region while she had no ability to provide such real estate.
Zaborskikh allegedly used the money on her own volition by, among other things, transferring it to the religious organization called “The Church of Scientology Moscow”. According to investigators, she gave away money to the organization both in cash and through cashless transfer.
Dianetics and Scientology are a set of religious and philosophical ideas and practices that were put forth by L. Ron Hubbard in the US in the early 1950s.
The scientific community never recognized it as science.
A resolution passed in 1996 by the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, classified the Church of Scientology as a destructive religious organization.
The Moscow Regional Court ruled in 2012 that some of Hubbard’s books be included on the Federal List of Extremist Literature and prohibited from distribution in Russia.