Court to hear case against sect leader Grabovoi on Sept 18

Moscow, Russia - Moscow's Tagansky court will hold a preliminary hearing on September 18 of the case against sect leader Grigory Grabovoi, accused of fraud, court officials told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

The case was sent to court earlier this month. Prosecutors requalified charges against Grabovoi from fraud to grand fraud. Criminal proceedings were instituted in April.

The sect leader was charged under Article 159, Part IV of Russia's Criminal Code in 11 money theft episodes.

Among those who complained to police about Grabovoi were residents of Beslan, where he had held his seminars and promised to revive children killed in the Beslan hostage-taking raid.

Grabovoi is accused of developing fraudulent schemes and misappropriating the money of persons who trusted him in a pyramid scheme.

He taught people for money and then offered his students to sign contracts committing them to spread his teaching to Russian provinces. The students obliged, organizing seminars in their regions, which Grabovoi viewed as branches of his movement.

The interest was commercial: Grabovoi drew a revenue to the tune of 10 percent of the profit gained by regional organizations.

The seminars were mostly attended by grief-stricken persons, who found Grabovoi's teaching the only opportunity to get answers to the questions plaguing them, including Beslan residents.

According to prosecutors, the price of tuition at seminars -- that gathered up to 500 people -- was 2,000 roubles per person, while individual studies cost 39,100 roubles.

Grabovoi was detained after one of the seminars at Kosmos Hotel, where attendance usually ranged between 200 and 300.

The sect leader began his activity in the mid-1990s and initially was building his image in the mass media, to become famous and promote his teaching, prosecutors said.

If found guilty, he may face up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to one million roubles.