FSB raids 14 Scientology offices in Russia in money laundering probe
The Federal Security Service has conducted 14 simultaneous raids on the Church of Scientology offices in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It seized documents that could shed light on the organization’s illegal financial dealings in Russia.
The simultaneous raid across the two cities follow the November 2015 court decision in Moscow that ruled that the Church of Scientology did not comply with federal laws on freedom of religion, as it used its trademark for financial gain.
The ruling backed by the Justice Ministry said that since the Church of Scientology had registered its name as a US trademark, it can’t call itself a religious entity. As the Russian court banned the activities of the Moscow branch, the organization threatened to appeal the decision claiming that it violates the rights of its parishioners.
Raids on Tuesday were carried out as part of the ongoing investigation into the organization’s alleged money laundering activities, and in particular into one member of the community, who is being probed over allegations of real estate fraud, that amounted to 130 million rubles ($2 million), according to RIA sources.
In April, authorities detained Ekaterina Zaborskikh for allegedly stealing large sums from apartment buyers in St. Petersburg. Investigators believe that between 2012 and 2014 Zaborskikh through a construction company promised to build “affordable castles,”which were never delivered. Instead, the money was redirected through the Church of Scientology as donations. Detectives believe that some of the stolen funds were transferred to the organization’s account in Moscow.