Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive

Spanish Police Swoop on Cult

The East Grinstead Observer, 24 November 1988

THREE BRITISH Scientologists - including one who worked at East Grinstead's Saint Hill Manor - were among 69 cult members arrested in a swoop by Spanish police.

The police raid on Madrid's Hotel Melia Castilla came after a nine-month operation which included phone wire tapping.

The police moved in as the sect planned an international meeting of Church of Scientology leaders.

Of those arrested, 24 were later released after they had been cleared of being involved with the running of the cult.

But the three Britons are still being held in the cells and could face criminal charges of fraud, illegal association and forgery. The trio have been named as Janet Murray and William Tucker from London, and Michael Wenlock of Harrogate.

Wenlock is said to have worked at the cult's British headquarters Saint Hill Manor in Saint Hill Road, East Grinstead.

A Spanish judge has begun questioning the Church members and has said 51 could be charged with threats of coercion, forgery and tax evasion.

Those in custody also included Herbert Hertzch [should be Heber Jentzsch], a 53-year-old US citizen from Utah and an alleged "Commander" in the organisation a judge told reporters at a news conference last night.

Judge Jose Maria Vasquez Honrubia said the raid was carried out after police investigations indicated leaders of the organisation were planning an international meeting in the Spanish capital.

Judge Vasquez Honrubia said those under arrest who also included two other unnamed Americans, two French, four Italians, five Argentines, two Mexicans, one Swede, one Swiss, one Chilean, one Venezualian, one South African, one Peruvian, and 20 Spaniards, would be charged with fraud, illegal association, coercion, forgery of public documents, tax evasion and failure to meet social security payments.

Police also raided the headquarters of Narconon, a drug rehabilitation programme, Dianetica and the Civil Association of Applied Philosophy, all associated with the Church of Scientology, in Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Seville, Jerez de la Frontera, Bilbao, Burgos and Odndarroa.

More arrests are expected.

According to information distributed by the Organisation, The Church of Scientology has oftices in 30 countries.

There are no restrictions on its activities in the United States where it was founded in 1954 by L. Ron Hubbard, who suffered a stroke and died in 1986.

In 1984 the US Government began an investigation of Hubbard's tax returns after the Internal Revenue Service said it suspected millions of dollars in church funds had been transferred to Hubbard in a scheme to protect the church's tax-exempt status and to avoid paying taxes on the money.

As Judge Honrubia started his investigation he told reporters: "The real God of this organisation is money".

He said the sect made members pay progressively large fees for attending courses and threatened people who wanted to leave. Up to 40 complaints had been filed in Spanish courts, including one for abduction of a youth.

A spokesman for the Scientologists' British headquarters at Saint Hill Manor was not available for comment.

Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive