Thursday, 9 February 2012

Arnaud Palisson vindicated by CoS fraud conviction in France.

Arnaud Palisson, a police officer who monitored cults for France's domestic intelligence agency, obtained a Doctor of Law degree in 2002 and the subject of his doctoral thesis was how the Church of Scientology violates the law. After the thesis was posted on the internet, Scientology and its lawyers complained to the French government, and Palisson's superiors eventually ordered him to remove the thesis or face re-assignment. Palisson refused to take the thesis offline and he later relocated to Canada, where he currently lives.

In a February 7, 2012 blog post, Arnaud Palisson writes that the Paris court of appeal's February 2 decision confirming Scientology's organized fraud conviction vindicates the stand he took ten years ago. Here is a translation:

Ten years later, my thesis about Scientology is confirmed by the Paris court of appeal
Revenge of the pariah of the intelligence community over top French officials


by Arnaud Palisson, February 7, 2012
(unofficial translation)

Last Thursday, February 2, 2012, the Paris court of appeal upheld a decision of the correctional court and convicted two Parisian Scientology entities as legal persons for fraud, aggravated by the fact that the offenses constituted organized fraud, committed by using a personality test to fraudulently persuade victims to purchase Scientology goods and services. The court issued fines totaling 600,000 euros - nearly one million Canadian dollars. This is the most severe penalty ever imposed for fraud against an organization in France.

Exactly ten years (and a few hours) ago, on February 1, 2002, at Cergy-Pontoise University, I defended my doctoral thesis in criminal law, which was devoted to the Church of Scientology. Using only open sources, I argued that it is necessary to:
  • prosecute Scientology organizations in France, in particular for organized fraud, aggravated by the fact that the offenses constitute organized fraud
  • systematically seek to establish the criminal liability of the legal person involved
in particular, because of the use of the personality test to fraudulently persuade victims to purchase Scientology products and services.

At that time, I was a police officer in the Central Directorate of General Information (DCRG - now DCRI). I worked as an intelligence analyst responsible for monitoring cults at the national level. In October 2002, I presented a 3-hour lecture about the Church of Scientology before a hundred or so French and foreign judges, diplomats, and military and police officials at the National Magistrates School (ENM) in Paris.

On this occasion, I forwarded copies of my thesis to two judges. One was Belgian and he was investigating an important Scientology case; the other was French and she was investigating the huge Church of Scientology-Paris Celebrity Centre case (the same case that ended last week at the court of appeal).

From that point on, my thesis never left the desk of the two judges. It also landed on the desk of a Swiss judge a few months later.

Despite the succession of judges that investigated the case of the Paris Celebrity Centre, my thesis remained the key legal reference document. The investigation, which began in 1999 in a traditional manner, underwent a strategic change of direction in the light of my university work. Gradually, the investigating judges:
  • used the internal terminology of the Church of Scientology, as I recommended,
  • looked into the real functions detailed in the organization chart that I provided,
  • focused mainly on the criminal charge that I advocated, namely fraud, aggravated by the fact that the offenses constitute organized fraud,
  • sought to establish, as I advocated, the criminal liability of legal persons.

My thesis was known only to a few persons, but it became public on November 13, 2002, when Le Figaro published a full-page article about it by Christophe Cornevin. On the same day, my thesis was posted in full on the internet - via the website of Roger Gonnet, former head of the Church of Scientology of Lyon, who became the cult's chief opponent in France.

Scientology's Parisian officials are usually well informed, but they did not see any of this coming.

Nevertheless, Scientology reacted speedily and with some effectiveness. The following month, the Church, through its lawyers, officially asked the Minister of Education to revoke my Doctor of Law degree. The organization said that my work was partisan and devoid of objectivity or of any scientific methodology. However, Scientology did not obtain any response from the Ministry of Education.

When the Church of Scientology learned that the Swiss publisher Favre was preparing a version of my thesis for the general public, it approached Pierre-Marcel Favre and urged him to abandon the project, at the same time providing a disingenuous analysis of my thesis. This second attempt also failed.

(Note: I posted on the internet a long and scathing refutation of the arguments put forward in the two documents just mentioned.)

Paradoxically, it is when the Scientology organization, out of desperation, turned to the Ministry of the Interior that it achieved some success.

In April 2003, lawyers for the Church of Scientology in Paris contacted the office of then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy. They requested that my doctoral thesis be withdrawn from the internet. They found a sympathetic ear in the person of the chief of staff, Claude Guéant (who today is Interior Minister).

In keeping with the principle of administrative dominoes, a directive from the chief of staff then percolated down to me. My director told me, in substance:: "Either you withdraw your thesis from the internet or you leave the Cults and Sects group."

My thesis stayed put, but not me.

A month later, my book appeared in bookstores. I became a sort of pariah, a civil servant that no one knew what to do with.

While I was packing my boxes to leave for an assignment at the newly created MIVILUDES (Interministerial Mission of Vigilance and Combat against Sectarian Abuses), I suddenly got radio silence. The president of MIVILUDES, Jean-Louis Langlais, did not even take the trouble to call me on the phone to tell me that my transfer was canceled.

In the meantime, lawyers for the Church of Scientology put pressure on the director of the National Magistrates School. The training center on Île de la Cité was placed off-limits to me. My successor there was journalist Serge Faubert, who has a very deep understanding of the Scientology organization and who wrote what today remains an essential investigative book about it. And to the judges who asked him where to look for legal references about Scientology, Serge Faubert (I thank him for this) answered by showing them my book!

After spending a few months on the sidelines in another group at the DCRG, I asked for and obtained a transfer to the other end of the corridor, to an anti-terrorist section. I stayed there two and a half years.

Ultimately, my thesis did find favor in the eyes of a handful of investigating judges in Europe. My adventures are told in part by an article in Charlie-Hebdo and a documentary that aired on Canal+. But, for the policeman that I am, something is seriously wrong:
  • I was dumped by my superiors - who earlier had hired me for my specialization.
  • The Interior Ministry officially portrayed me as a partisan civil servant.
  • MIVILUDES suddenly forgot my very existence.
  • The professional training center for judges slammed the door in my face, as it would to a hard-core delinquent.

But last Thursday, exactly ten years after I defended my thesis, the Paris court of appeal delivered a slap in the face to all those civil servants who only carried out orders: I was right.

Let there be no mistake. I am neither bitter nor vengeful. Given the way that MIVILUDES evolved, I know I would not have lasted two months there. Moreover, with Claude Guéant as head of the Interior Ministry, my career progression would have suffered.

Finally, my administrative setbacks are in large part what led me to go to Canada to see if the grass is greener there. And this undeniably is the case.

In other words [as Edith Piaf sang]: Non, rien de rien. Non, je ne regrette rien.
["No, nothing at all. / No, I regret nothing."]

But 5,500 kilometers from Paris, an ocean away and 10 years later, please permit me to exult.
Big Thanks to mnql1 on OCMB for this translation.


  1. Thanks for tracking that down Sharone, I was planning to make the point that his work had been vindicated in a later post -- but it looks like he got there first!
    Jonny Jacobsen
    Infinite Complacency

    1. Scientology knows no bounds when it comes to trying to keep people silent.

      Your welcome Jonny.