Dated: 15th Sept 2016
On Thursday, Brussels criminal court (“tribunal correctionnel”)¹ sentenced Robert Spatz, spiritual head of the Ogyen Kunzang Choling (OKC) Buddhist community, to a suspended sentence of 4 years in prison. The man, tried in absentia, was found guilty of sexual abuse, child kidnapping and money laundering, among others.
The OKC Association itself was found guilty on a number of charges. The court condemned Robert Spatz and the OKC to the payment of four and a half million Euros.
The Court also ordered damages to be paid to some thirty plaintiffs in civil proceedings. Most of those were children raised between 1980 and the early 2000s, separated from their parents, in horrible sanitary conditions in monasteries belonging to the OKC in France and Portugal.
The Court granted the plaintiffs damages of 2,500 Euros per year spent in the monasteries, plus interest, which will take into account the time passed since the incidents occurred.
The Court also granted 12,000 Euros plus interest to each person who had been a victim of sexual abuse by Robert Spatz.
The Court found that the children had been taken hostage and had been subjected to physical and psychological torture, such as deprivation of food and lack of basic sanitation in the monasteries where they had been brought. The Court pointed out that according to the OKC’s own rules, the children in the community had been sent to the various monasteries, in particular to the estate of Château-de-Soleils at Castellane (in Provence, South of France), by their parents themselves, on the advice of Robert Spatz.
Some of the plaintiffs had reported that the “guru”, Robert Spatz, made the parents believe that they had a bad influence on their own children, polluting them, hence the necessity for the children to be raised away from their parents, in order to become elites who would be able to survive the violence and decadence of the external world.
Some of the children, aged 3 to 12 years, had had no contact to their parents for several years, the Court stated. “This manner of living deprived the children of a real exposure to the outside world and harmed them in terms of affectivity and personal development”, according to the judge. “If some of them were able to get an education and develop well in society afterwards, it was due to their own perseverance and not thanks to the OKC”, he added.
Regarding some acts of sexual abuse, the Court found that they had been committed under the justification of spiritual authority and under the pretext of so-called Buddhist initiations. The Court also concluded that some of the parents had been forced into working without salary in various business belonging to the OKC. “They were the object of continuous conditioning aimed at having them work beyond their own physical limits”, the judge said. Regarding these plaintiffs, the Court’s decision was postponed, and the civil law aspects will be heard on March 6th, 2017.
The Court also found both the wife and the son of Robert Spatz guilty of some of the charges, both of whom had held positions of responsibility in the OKC. However, no penalties were imposed due to expiry of the statute of limitations. Four persons formerly holding responsible positions, and three associations connected to OKC, were acquitted.
Altogether, eleven physical persons and entities, all connected to the OKC were facing prosecution for fraud and abuse of trust, related to the activities of the community in Brussels between 1975 and 2008.
According to the investigation, some of the members had been pushed into making large monetary donations to the community, while others had been made to work for free in various shops and restaurants indirectly belonging to the OKC. It was held that the founder of this community, Robert Spatz, had benefited personally from these donations. This man, the principal defendant in the case, though tried in absentia, was also accused of several counts of sexual abuse committed on the premises of the OKC. He was described by the prosecution as a charismatic, highly manipulative guru.
[The last four lines were not translated since they simply listed various monasteries, in particular the estate of Château-de-Soleils at Castellane.]
¹ Translator’s note: This is the first level court that governs in penal matters over offences classified as misdemeanours and committed by an adult in France – it seems similar in Belgium.
² Blog owner’s note: Susan J. Palmer continues: “Spatz had traveled in India during the 1960s, where he studied for six years under a Tibetan master, Kyabje Kangyour Rinpotche (1895-1975), who initiated him into the higher levels, awarded him his spiritual title of ‘Lama Kunzang Dorje’ and entrusted him with the mission of opening a Buddhist center in Europe. OKC also established Tibetan Buddhist centers in Portugal and Tahiti. In 1974 Lama Dorje set up Chateau Soleil, a monastery in the French Alps with a temple and a residential school for the children of the adepts. The Dalai Lama visited the OKC center in Brussels in 1990. OKC belongs to the Red Hat, Nyingmapa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. It emphasizes the worship of Tara, the spiritual mother of Buddha.” (This explanation of OKC history and theology is likely to be primarily drawn from the official narrative of the OKC leadership.)
From Inform: “Susan Palmer’s chapter was published in 2011 and focused largely on the limited information available prior to government raids conducted at Chateau Soleil, France in 1997. Palmer’s chapter does not take into account the allegations of rape against minors which only began to be alleged publicly soon after the raids.”
Translation by Wangdrag
Edited by Christopher Hamacher
- Boeddhistische sekteleider veroordeeld wegens seksueel misbruik – Boeddhistisch Dagblad (August 2017)
- The trial for the Ogyen Kunzang Choling religious community, presented as a Buddhist religious centre, will start on Monday – Brussels Times (Jan 2016)
- www.okcinfo.news (Website of ex-OKC members)
- Procès de la secte OKC: “Le gourou était un pervers narcissique pédophile” (Jan 2016)
- OKC/Ogyen Kunzang Choling, Les enfants oubliés (YouTube Video)
- Tribunal correctionnel de Bruxelles: le juge rejette la comparution par vidéo-conférence d’un gourou présumé (June 2015)
- OKC : le gourou viré de sa propre secte (Feb 2016)
- OKC: FERMETE INATTENDUE DE LA CHAMBRE DES MISES, LE GOUROU ROBERT SPATZ MAINTENU EN DETENTION – LE SOIR (Nov 1997)
- Testimony from an Ogyen Kunzang Choling (OKC) Survivor October 29, 2017
- Auch Du, Buddha? – Anna Sawerthal (November 2017, http://www.datum.de)
- Abuse and Buddhism: Behind the Smiling Façade – Anna Sawerthal
- Les dérives sectaires Dans les griffes du gourou – RTL TV I (December 2017)
- New Fundraising Campaign: http://www.okcinfo.news/en/ (May 2018)
- Au cœur de la secte bouddhiste belge OKC – Vice (March 2019)
- Justice for OKC-Spatz survivors – GoFundMe Campaign (January 2020)