Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive

The Big Story: The S-Files

'The Big Story' ITV, Thursday 28 November 1996, 7:30 pm

Transcribed by John Ritson, john@jritson.demon.co.uk

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 wierd 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 fictitional names, fictitional 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 comlete 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 anthing 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
[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

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
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
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 wan'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
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
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 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
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

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 acccounting
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 acceptavble 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
Those secrets are recorded, and can, if neccessary 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 mision. Within a few month 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
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
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'
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
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
I felt that people needed to know the truth. Scientology is not an 
organisation that you can trust"

Up: Martin Poulter > Scientology Criticism > UK Media Archive