Scientology Critical Information Directory

This site is best viewed using a highly standards-compliant browser

The Big Story: The S-Files

Title: The Big Story: The S-Files
Date: Thursday, 28 November 1996
Publisher: ITV
Author: Dermot Murnaghan
Main source:
Alternate and/or complementary: partial transcript

Disclaimer: This archive is presented strictly in the public interest for research purposes. All the copyrights of materials reproduced here are the properties of their respective owners.

Title "The S Files" [S as in Scientology Logo]

[Presenter Dermot Murnaghan (DM henceforth) no relation to any other DM]

Tonight we're going to expose serious financial crime in one of the Scientology cult's most successful operations in Britain. We show how they cooked the books, made false statements to obtain bank loans, and changed invoices to fiddle their VAT.

[Extract from "Trust" ad]

This advert for the Church of Scientology was recently shown on cable TV. It was a major breakthrough for the cult. The cult persuaded the Independent Television Commission that it was a 'proper' religious organisation fit to be allowed on TV. It also has the right to advertise on the ITV network itself, giving it direct access to the entire British population, and the Scientologists hope they'll soon be officially accepted as a charity. But the inside evidence we have obtained raises serious doubts about their new public image. Last year The Big Story secretly filmed inside the Bournemouth mission.

[shots from that film - smiling recruiter - whimpering trainee]

We showed the weird psychological techniques they use and how they get people to spend thousands of pounds on their books and courses. The revelations in that programme convinced two former Bournemouth mission officials that they should come to us with their inside story of financial scams.

[SCAM 1 - Cooking the Books] [Voices saying "Trust"]

Roger Tuffin left Scientology when he decided to come out as gay and now lives with his partner John.

[two blokes sorting out washing]

He joined the Bournemouth Mission when he was just 20 and desperately confused about his sexuality.

[1991 — according to an interview in "The Guardian"]

Roger had worked in a bank so he soon found himself in a key role in the mission's treasury department - cooking the books.

[shot of bloke putting food under grill]

Normal accounting practices and financial law went by the board.

RT: Nobody knew where the money came from so receipts were made up to account for that money. But of course the receipts were being made up about three years later with fictional names, fictional amounts and courses - and completely bogus receipts.

DM: At the time Roger Kay was the boss - his deputy was Debbie Pine.

[Film of them taken inside the mission]

Tuffin says they both knew what was going on, but the cult's international HQ denies this.

Mike Rinder - Director CSI: ..a complete lie. I don't think that there is an example you can ever find - of somebody in the Church of Scientology that has done something improper that has not been dealt with internally within the Church.

DM: Poole High St. ten days ago. Our secret camera watches the Scientologists out and about trying to pick up new members.

[shot of street from above]

[for non-UK readers Poole and Bournemouth form a South Coast conurbation]

Recruiter: "...we operate for the benefit the public so it's up to you"

DM: Scientology is essentially a money-making enterprise. And they want that money so much that in the Bournemouth mission they were prepared to employ a woman who admitted she'd been involved in financial malpractice in the past.

[woman using PC - pages of HCOBs 10 Sept ?? 'PTSness and Disconnection', 21 Feb ?? 'Choosing PE and Registration', about 'Control and Income']

Andrea Catt: The Scientologists knew that I had been involved in professional malpractice and that I knew how money worked and how to get money, how to move money around, and as the years progressed I got dragged back more and more into the world of finance.

DM: But the Scientologists claim they put her into the job to give her a second chance.

MR: Someone comes into a church and says that they have reformed their ways it would be uncharitable and not religious to say to them "I'm sorry, we don't believe anything that you're saying. I'm sorry because of your past we don't believe that you can change."

[wrinkles nose]

DM: According to Andrea by 1991 the Bournemouth mission was broke and under enormous pressure from the cult's head office to sell more and more Scientology courses.

[AC sorting through Scientology books]

AC: And as the pressure became greater and greater it became apparent to all concerned that the only way to do things which were effectively more malpractice.

[Shot through mission windows]

DM: In the Bournemouth mission every Thursday evening the executives met to draw up a list of emotionally vulnerable recruits to be targeted that week.

AC: There'd be some people - maybe their mother had just died and they were very depressed or their girlfriend had just left them and those would be prime, prime targets.

DM: Alex Bowernan was a prime target.

[shot of man cleaning garden pond]

DM: He is still trying to recover both financially and mentally. In 1995 he enrolled for a £125 Scientology counselling course.

AB: They told me that I was in a very depressed state of mind. I had to do something about it otherwise it was just downhill from there. I had to put a stop to that.

[Cover of "The Scientologist's Guide to Dissemination" then overleaf 'Finding a Ruin']

AC: You talk to him about the things which are 'ruining his life'. You basically make the person feel really, really bad about the condition they're in. You take their problems and you magnify them. You look at how that's going to affect them in the future and you get the person into a state where they feel that their future is nothing unless they do something and then you tell them that the only thing that they can do is Scientology.

DM: Debbie Pine 'ruined' Alex Bowerman. In a set of gruelling interviews she persuaded him to start the Bridge - a set of courses allegedly designed to 'clear' a person of his problems.

[Picture of 'The Bridge to Total Freedom' course charts.]

AB: I was taken for re-interviews starting about ten o'clock at night and finishing at about four in the morning and during this process I was persuaded that this was the best course to take.

DM: The bridge costs more than £20,000. Alex was persuaded to cash in an insurance policy. He was told it had to be done immediately.

AB: I had spoken to the insurance company and I'd been told that there was no way I could get it that week. It would take two or three weeks minimum. So I went back to Scientology and they said "Oh no, this is not correct. We have done this before. You just say that this is your money, you want it. You can get it."

DM: They were right. When Alex insisted he wanted the money quickly, the insurance company paid up. The Senior Registrar - Stephanie Powell

[shot of Stephanie Powell through the mission window]

went with him to collect the money. But even though Alex handed over more than £23,000

[shot of Scientology receipts for Alex's payment - total £23,474.79]

she still wasn't satisfied. Within days he'd been persuaded he needed more training courses, tapes and books amounting to a further £2,000.

AB: They played me for a puppet. They managed within the space of a week to get £25,000 off me. That's more than my bank's ever managed to do.

DM: Alex's story is not unique. According to Andrea it happens all the time.

AC: People were persuaded to re-mortgage their homes, sell their homes, cash in the policies supposed to pay off their mortgages, borrow against pensions, sell family jewels, borrow from their families, sell their cars. Anything you can possibly imagine that a person could do to raise money, people were persuaded to do to pay into Scientology.

MR: You can talk to thousands of people and they will tell you that nothing even remotely similar to that ever happened to them. It is just a story that is made up now to sound sensational and give you some fodder for your programme that will make the Church in some way look bad.

DM: If targets had no ready cash or property to sell they'd be persuaded to take out a loan. To make borrowing easier Registrars kept a handy stock of forms from all the major lending financial institutions. They then persuaded people to lie about the purpose of the loans. This constitutes criminal deception.

[SCAM 2 DECEIVING THE BANK] ["Trust" voices]

AC: I knew full well, and so did all the other Registrars that if a person filled a loan form in saying the money was for Scientology, they'd get a very negative response so people were encouraged to say the money was for a management training course, a computer, a car, a boat, anything other than for Scientology. Sometimes the person would fill the form in for themselves, sometimes we'd fill it in with them, or for them. Then they'd sign it and it would be submitted to the bank on a completely false basis.

Coopers and Lybrand accountant - Rick Helsby: If the Church of Scientology itself assisted a member Scientologist in deceiving a bank into advancing a loan which the bank otherwise would not or might not have given then that is conspiracy to cheat and that is an extremely serious criminal offence.

DM: In 1993 a loan application purporting to be for a computer was filled out by a young recruit in the Bournemouth mission.

AC: The bank found out that he'd used the money for Scientology and threatened to go to the police. The mission needed a scapegoat. I was the scapegoat. I was told to write a report of all the things that had happened in the mission financially that were irregular.

[Shot of Statutory Declaration]

DM: Andrea says she was forced into signing a full confession taking all the blame onto herself even though other people were also involved in the financial scams.

MR: I can't give you any information whatsoever about that. I just don't. You know, you're talking to me and I have certain information about things. But the Bournemouth Mission is a long, long, long way away from the central activity of the Church of Scientology on an international basis.

DM: Andrea was suspended for six months, but then she was reinstated. Back in her old apartment it was business as usual. She was so successful she even won awards from head office.

[The "Gross Income Cup" according to "The Guardian"]

[SCAM 3 Fiddling the VAT]["Trust"]

DM: It wasn't just the banks that Scientology officials defrauded. In the early '90s the cult's accountants realised the Church had failed to register for Value-Added Tax and owed thousands of pounds to Customs and Excise. This resulted in some creative book-keeping. The scam was simple. The courses the cult sells are subject to VAT but donations are not.

[shot of course leaflets]

RT: If there was a receipt for a course, say about £4,000, part of that's your tax which has to be deducted. But then the receipt would be changed, that receipt taken out and destroyed and a new receipt made to make it into a donation.

RH: If the Church is deliberately falsifying its accounting records, destroying receipts and the like so that its trading income or income from services is understated to the Customs and Excise then that is an extremely serious criminal offence. It could be theft, false accounting and could be subject to many years of imprisonment.

MR: Now I will say this to you over and over and over. If someone was doing something unethical that is not acceptable to me, it is not acceptable to anyone in the Church and we take responsibility for straightening those things out.

["Trust" ad again]

DM [standing outside org]: Scientology staff, under constant pressure to make money, live in fear of any of their recruits leaving the cult. A recruit who drops out represents a drop in income. Even worse, he might demand a refund. So officials need to keep all members under their control and to do this the use an insidious technique. All recruits are persuaded to divulge any dark secrets from their past for their own good. Those secrets are recorded, and can, if necessary be used against them in the future. Stuart Parkinson is one of the mission's most senior officials. One day he took Alex Bowerman aside for a confidential chat, telling him that to get over his problems he should admit to all his past wrongdoings.

[shot of Stuart P through window]

AB: Stuart asked for all sorts of information about my background. Anything I was upset about or embarrassed about, that was holding me back on the line. And I divulged all kinds of stuff that I would not normally divulge to anybody, indeed stuff that I had not told anybody up to that point. Having written them all down he read them and they went into my file.

DM: That confession was to have serious consequences for Alex. After he left the cult he was pestered for six months with letters and calls. Then they discovered he'd instructed a solicitor to take action to get his money back.

AB: Within the next couple of days we had a letter from the mission. It was not very pleasant.

DM: The letter referred to the secrets that Alex had divulged, suggesting "the way out for you

[shot of letter]

is to confess everything you did to your wife and the Police and suffer the consequences."

AB: It was basically telling me that they had stuff on me.

DM: Then Hodgkin and Co., Scientology solicitors passed on the letter to the Legal Aid Board.

AB: I was devastated, just reading that letter I felt as if my whole world had collapsed in one go.

DM: The fear that personal confidences might be divulged can ruin a life or even end it.

[shot of gravestone]

Last November, Richard from Christchurch [near Bournemouth]

[shot of smiling young man apparently celebrating birthday]

was recruited into the Bournemouth mission. Within a few months he'd borrowed £3,000 to pay for Scientology courses. Richard's sister Jennifer describes what he was like before he met the Scientologists.

Jennifer: I would describe him as a very thoughtful, caring, intelligent sensitive person. He seemed to enjoy life, went out a lot with his friends.

DM: Richard underwent the Scientologists Purification Rundown,

[shots of pill-guzzling, running and saunas, labelled as Reconstruction]

supposedly a form of detoxification, involving taking massive doses of vitamins, then going for a vigorous half-hour run. They then sit in a sauna for up to five hours a day. This punishing regime is repeated daily for at least two to three weeks. People start to hallucinate, allegedly because their bodies are getting rid of impurities, but in fact because of the damage being done to their metabolism. It was all too much for Richard, both physically and mentally. Alan, one of Richard's workmates witnessed what happened when he decided to quit Scientology.

Alan: When he initially wanted to leave they phoned him four times a day, five times a day, up to an hour each time. And when he was on the phone he was shaking, obviously frightened of something, but only the Scientologists and Richard would know what that conversation was.

DM: Tony Clark, and other Bournemouth mission officials, wrote Richard several letters.

[Shot of Tony Clark through window]

Some of them distressed Richard so much that he tore them up on the spot, others warned him of the consequences and asked him to come into the mission.

[shots of letters]

Andrea knows the routine. It's called "re-ruining".

AC: He might be shown write-ups he'd done of past misdeeds that he'd done and strongly reminded that those things still existed within his emotional difficulties and he'd be brought to a very low emotional point. All the influence the Church had prior would be really brought to bear and the indoctrination would be hammered in harder.

DM: Richard's sister was on a visit home in July. She saw him on the morning of his death.

Sister: Richard was anxious about the fact that he was wanting to leave Scientology, and he was concerned that they were not letting him leave, and that they were threatening to print personal information about him. That is what he voiced to me.

DM: Later, Richard left home saying he was going to visit a friend. He stopped off at a garage for petrol and cigarettes but he never arrived at the friend's house.

[shot of Clifton Suspension Bridge]

DM: For several hours that night his movements are unaccounted for but much later that night he parked his car near the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol. At ten minutes to midnight he jumped to his death.

Sister: The family feel that Richard would be alive today if he had not become involved with the Church of Scientology, and I feel they have a responsibility for people that they are recruiting. If people want to leave the organisation, then they need to give people that freedom to leave without harassment and without threat.

MR: The fact that he committed suicide is a tragedy. But the fact that people would then make an allegation that because he had at some point an involvement in the Church of Scientology, that therefore the Church of Scientology is responsible - is reprehensible, is disgusting.

DM: Even after Richard had died, the harrassment continued. Unaware of the suicide, Tony Clark sent increasingly angry and threatening letters.

[Shot of letter 'I'm not the one who will miss out. In ten years time I will not be thinking life is awful and want to kill myself—so why not be bloody ethical and get yourself sorted. See you soon. Best Regards TC']

DM {in front of org]: Ten British recruits to Scientology have committed suicide in the past twelve years. But despite the disturbing evidence in cases like Richard's Britain has been tolerant of the cult. It's a very different story in Europe. There the authorities have taken strong action against Scientology because of public outrage.

[coverage of French trial]

MR: The formation of the Christian religion was fraught with intolerance. Jesus Christ was tried by a court not unlike the court in France. He was tried in a court and found guilty and he was put to death. Today they don't do that anymore. Today we've got the media to do that to people.

[German and Spanish coverage]

[Pictures of Saint Hill]

DM: Back in Britain, in 1993 Roger Tuffin joined the Sea Organisation, Scientology's elite corps.

[shot of 'Why continue to be part of a dying world? Join the Sea Org' leaflet]

RT: The only way that I could really get out would be for me to move up by joining the Sea Org, which would be looked as a positive thing to do in Scientology. I could escape the finances and all the trouble that was there. I didn't agree with it but I couldn't win a one-man battle on sorting it out.

DM: Roger was posted to Scientology's ship 'Freewinds' in the Caribbean. There he looked after the cult's war-chest, amassed from the huge donations collected worldwide.

RT: It certainly ran into hundreds of millions of dollars. They'd make at least half a million dollars per week worldwide.


AC: When I saw the "trust" ad I was horrified. I've not been the most trustworthy person in my life, and having made this programme I may get into serious trouble. I felt that people needed to know the truth. Scientology is not an organisation that you can trust.

Transcript courtesy of John Ritson