An unprecedented verdict – 11 years behind bars – has been handed to a cult leader for fraud, a seemingly harsh punishment until one learns that Grigory Grabovoi promised grieving mothers to resurrect their children for a fee.
The judge, reading the verdict on July 7, explained that Grabovoi had essentially embezzled his victims by using “psychological pressure.” “Grabovoi told citizens that their relatives have been resurrected and their meeting will soon take place,” RIA Novosti quoted the Tagansky District Court statement as saying.
Grabovoi’s most well-known victims are the Beslan mothers – women who lost their children in a bloody hostage taking when terrorists seized a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan in September 2004. To make his services look legal, the psychic offered contracts to his clients.
In 2003, for instance, a man paid Grabovoy about $1,700 [to] save his parents from death. A woman ended up paying him $5,000 to resurrect her two dead sons.
With some lawmakers taking efforts to rein in the otherwise uncontrolled world of the occult, Grabovoi has probably been the most controversial psychic in recent Russian history, which has had its share of cult figures claiming to “cure” ailments over television.
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, organising seminars in their regions, which Grabovoi viewed as branches of his movement.
The interest was commercial: Grabovoi drew an income to the tune of 10 percent of the profit gained by regional organisations.
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.
In March 2008, the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that Grabovoi and his “social-political organization” – Drugg – had enjoyed the protection of high-up members of the Russian government and that the approval of then-President Vladimir Putin had been sought before his arrest in 2007.
Grabovoi had at one point claimed to enjoy the support of the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, saying that he had been issued a license to work in the Central Asian state. The Kazakh Embassy in Moscow denied this.
The Mothers of Beslan organization, a number of whom supported Grabovoi, said the “healer” had been used by the Russian authorities to discredit the group as it attempted to resolve a number of issues surrounding the events leading up to the Beslan siege.