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Illegal acts might have gone undetected, judge says // Globe article triggered investigation by OPP into organization's activities

Title: Illegal acts might have gone undetected, judge says // Globe article triggered investigation by OPP into organization's activities
Date: Saturday, 12 September 1992
Publisher: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Author: Thomas Claridge
Main source:

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A judge who yesterday fined the Church of Scientology of Toronto $250,000 for espionage activities carried out in the 1970s suggested the criminal acts might have gone undetected were it not for a Globe and Mail article published in 1980.

Mr. Justice James Southey of the Ontario Court's General Division said the article triggered an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police that included counterespionage activities and led to a massive raid in 1983 and the laying of charges in December of 1984.

The 2,310-word article by John Marshall was part of a series dealing with the Church of Scientology published in January of 1980. The Globe reporter had spent a week poring over documents seized by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation in raids on the Washington and Los Angeles offices of Scientology in 1977.

Among the 33,000 documents released in December of 1979 after the conviction and sentencing of nine senior U.S. Scientologists, Mr. Marshall had found confidential memos from several Ontario government offices.

One letter the reporter discovered was "from an RCMP officer in Ottawa to the Ontario Provincial Police fraud squad in Toronto, which was investigating complaints by parents of a teen-aged member of the cult. The letter had an OPP stamp indicating it had been received March 3, 1979."

Although the FBI and OPP raids on Scientology were similar in scope, the prosecutions that resulted were sharply different. The U.S. prosecutions were only of individuals and led to guilty pleas that minimized the adverse publicity. Ontario prosecutors decided to attempt the more difficult task of prosecuting both individual participants and the Toronto church for criminal breaches of trust.

In doing so, the Crown had to rely heavily on testimony of former senior Guardian's Office officials, some of whom had been thrown out of the church because of their involvement.

Evidence at the trial showed the espionage work was prompted by a widely held belief within Scientology's hierarchy that governments were out to destroy the new religious organization.

The illegal activities in Ontario have directly or indirectly cost Scientology about $10-million in fines, legal fees and jury awards.

In addition to $7-million the Toronto church has spent fighting the criminal charges and the $250,000 fine imposed yesterday, the church was hit by a $1.6-million libel award and substantial costs last fall in connection with a private contempt-of-court prosecution of two Crown lawyers.

The successful plaintiff, Casey Hill, had been assigned to head up an investigation of Scientology and other religious cults and was involved in drafting the search warrant used to raid Scientology's Toronto headquarters in March of 1983.

Despite the costliness of the legal battles, the church is appealing both the libel and breach-of-trust verdicts.

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