Home News Scientology Leader Served in Australian Human Trafficking Case After Year of Avoidance

Scientology Leader Served in Australian Human Trafficking Case After Year of Avoidance

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Scientology’s reclusive leader, David Miscavige, now has 21 days to respond to allegations in a human trafficking case brought by three Australian residents after nearly a year of avoiding legal service.

Gawain Baxter, Laura Baxter and Valeska Paris have filed a civil case in Florida alleging they suffered horrible emotional, physical and psychological abuse while members of Scientology.

Now a US magistrate has determined that Miscavige had been concealing his whereabouts for nearly one year and declared him officially served in the case.

 

Last April, Miscavige–leader of Scientology since 1986–and five affiliated organisations were named in a lawsuit brought against them; however, he was the only defendant not served with papers.

Plaintiff lawyers had claimed that Miscavige had attempted to avoid service 27 times, including by ordering security at Scientology properties to prevent it being delivered. Furthermore, Miscavige’s lawyers had also refused last month to accept service of process against him.

This lawsuit, supported by US class-action law firms, is seen as one of the most significant in decades against Scientology – which some critics view as a dangerous, money-focused cult.

John Dominguez, partner at Cohen Milstein and Zahra Dean, attorney at Kohn Swift, commented on today’s ruling: “For years David Miscavige has managed to avoid accountability.” The ruling brings our clients – those alleged to have suffered unspeakable abuses within Scientology as children and adulthood – one step closer to receiving justice against all responsible parties.”

Scientology spokesperson Karin Pouw said the magistrate’s findings were “erroneous”.

“Mr Miscavige never avoided service,” the attorney stated. “This case is nothing but plain harassment that was brought and is being litigated with the intention of extorting money through harassment. All the allegations contained within are absurd, ridiculous, scurrilous and demonstrably false.”

Last April, three Australian citizens filed their lawsuit alleging abuse while part of Scientology’s “Sea Org” and “Cadet Org” entities which involved them signing billion-year contracts to provide free or cheap labor.

The lawsuit alleges that pay was sometimes withheld or set at a maximum of $US50 ($72) per week. Much of the alleged abuse took place aboard Scientology’s Caribbean cruise ship, Freewinds, which never enters US waters.

The lawsuit detailed allegations of how children as young as six were separated from their parents and given custody to Cadet Org and later Sea Org. Members of these “Orgs” allegedly work as indentured labor, building up large debts that are then held against them in court.

Lawyers for Scientology have since noted that the three had signed contracts while members of the Sea Org, which required them to arbitrate disputes within the church instead of going through legal channels. This legal defense has been employed successfully on one occasion.

Scientology faces legal claims regarding Laura Baxter and Tom Cruise, an unnamed celebrity identified by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald as Tom Cruise, while aboard the Freewinds for his birthday in 2004. According to Baxter, her punishment was being kept locked away in an “extremely hot” engine room on board ship; there is no indication Cruise was aware of what had transpired.

Gawain Baxter, while living on the Freewinds, claimed he worked 16 to 24 hours a day under dangerous conditions. He claimed that after working with blue asbestos and concrete dust, he later coughed up blood.

Scientology was founded by US science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard in 1953 and has become a magnet for celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

An investigation conducted in 2021 by The Age and Herald into Scientology’s finances revealed it had laundered tens of millions of dollars into Australia without paying taxes, and made tax-exempt profits with little oversight.

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