A court in Russia's far eastern city of Khabarovsk Wednesday handed a local Scientology leader a six year suspended sentence for money laundering and setting up an illegal business, ITAR-TASS reported.
In the course of a year-long investigation launched against Olga Ukhova, prosecutors also accused the Dianetics center of inflicting psychological, physical and financial harm to its adherents, court officials said. Scientology, founded by the science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and based in Los Angeles, is recognized as a religion in the United States.
The Church of Scientology was officially set up in Russia in 1993 and claims 30,000 followers in the country. Since 1998, Russian prosecutors have sought to prove that its activities were illegal, but Moscow courts have twice dismissed cases against the church.
Scientology is considered a sect in some western countries, including France, Germany and Greece, where authorities contend that its leaders seek economic gain and use "quasi-totalitarian" methods to keep supporters in line.