June 3, 2000
The way the initiators picture it, it is more honest than the famous original: the "Alternative Charlemagne Award" which will be bestowed today by the "European-American Citizens Committee for Human Rights and Religious Freedom in the USA" one day after the official Charlemagne Award. "By holding this ceremony, we intended to give a sign that, in spite of the Clinton administration, there are people in America who think differently and who do not swim with the Scientology tide," said Thomas Gandow, Sect Commissioner of the Evangelical Church in Berlin-Brandenburg and member of the citizens committee.
Clinton, who received the official Charlemagne Award in Aachen yesterday for his merits in humanity and world peace, was said to have met with celebrity Scientologist John Travolta in the last few years, and to even have authored an article in a magazine for the controversial community. Therefore the Committee regards the U.S. President as anything but deserving of distinction and now wants to honor the American Scientology opponent and investment banker, Robert Minton, with the "Alternative Charlemagne Award."
Scientology went on the offensive and brought serious accusations against Minton: a letter to Berlin Bishop Wolfgang Huber alleged that Minton had been involved in illegal money-laundering deals, "aided and abetted by a former military dictatorship and notorious human rights violators in Nigeria." In this manner, the investment banker was said to have bought back Nigerian debt at cheap prices on the world market on commission from Nigeria and without knowledge of credit bankers, causing damages in the amount of hundreds of millions.
Thomas Gandow described Scientology's accusations as false. He said the "Lisa McPherson Trust," of which Minton is the chairman, helps victims of Scientology make their claims in court. He also said that Scientology has been using its accusations for years in a campaign of slander against Minton. The debt transactions were said to have taken place, but it served nothing other than the interest of the Nigerian people. "In no case did Minton profit unduly."
Nevertheless, there is doubt about Minton's credibility. "Transparency International," an international organization which fights corruption, confirmed, without naming names, that criminal actions occurred in connection with Nigerian debt transfers. These accusations have also caused upset in the church administration. "We are conducting our own investigations," said Provost Karl-Heinrich Luetcke. "If it should turn out that there is anything to these accusations, then that would be an annoying win on points for Scientology."