Elan Vital Cleared, Australian Court Stops Hate Group: Freelance Journalist John Macgregor Discredited, Guilty of Stealing Computer Files, Lying to Court

Mar 09, 2004, 00:00 ET from Elan Vital

    BRISBANE, Australia, March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The Supreme Court of
 Queensland ruled on March 1 that John Macgregor, a freelance journalist, was
 in violation of the law when he persuaded a computer technician to steal
 proprietary computer files from the computers of a not-for-profit
 organisation, and then distributed those files to an anonymously-maintained
 internet web site dedicated to harassing Elan Vital.  The court also ruled
 permanently against the publication of the stolen documents.
                               Hate Group Scheme
     The Court found that freelance journalist John Macgregor had participated
 in a hate group scheme to steal financial documents from Ivory's Rock
 Conference Centre and the not-for-profit organisation, Elan Vital.  The stolen
 documents included the personal and financial data of private citizens who had
 donated to the organisation.  Macgregor distributed the documents to an
 Internet hate site under an anonymous name.
     Macgregor had been a member of the hate group for several months and
 claimed several times on the Internet that he obtained the documents from a
 secret source inside Elan Vital.  The court found that there was no such
 source and that the documents were merely the fruit of plain deceit and
 irresponsible journalism.
     The Court ruled against Macgregor on summary judgment, meaning that the
 record of Macgregor's unlawful acts was so strong that there was no need for
 the matter to go to a full trial.  Macgregor has also been ordered to pay the
 costs of the action, which are estimated to top $100,000.
                        Theft and Deceit Not Journalism
     In writing stories about Elan Vital and Ivory's Rock Conference Centre, it
 was found that Macgregor never disclosed to his editors that he was himself
 the anonymous source that he quoted.  Macgregor used his contacts in the
 journalistic community to plant false and defamatory stories about IRCC and EV
 and manipulated unsuspecting journalists into quoting him as if he were a
 legitimate source.  The court had previously found Macgregor in contempt of
 court in November 2003 when he was adjudged to have lied to the court about
 the means in which the service of papers upon him were delivered.
     "We are glad that the Australian legal system recognises that hate groups
 like this cannot lie to journalists and editors, lie to the public, or help to
 steal confidential documents to further their bizarre aims.  While we have
 nothing to hide and take no issue with fair criticism, no one should have to
 endure the illegal behavior of self-interest hate groups following their own
 agenda," said Cath Carroll of Ivory's Rock Conference Centre.  "This should
 put hate groups and bogus journalists on notice that when they cross the line
 into illegal acts, they will have to answer to the law for their behavior."
                       Elan Vital Cleared From Wrongdoing
     In the court proceedings, Macgregor at first denied stealing the computer
 files, then, when forced to admit his scheme, tried to persuade the Court that
 the stolen documents showed criminal wrongdoing by Elan Vital, which justified
 the theft and wrongful dissemination to the anonymous hate site and to
 Australian newspapers.
     The court strongly rejected this defence, explicitly finding that the
 stolen documents showed no reason at all to believe that EV or IRCC were
 involved in any criminal undertaking.  In support of his argument Macgregor
 submitted a series of fabricated affidavits sworn by himself and his
 accomplices, first denying that they stole the documents, and then admitting
 the theft but trying to justify it.  The court refused to accept any of these
 affidavits, finding Macgregor and his accomplices untrustworthy and not
 credible.  Because it was found there had been no wrongdoing by EV, the court
 ruled that the hate group was simply not justified in stealing private
 information about innocent people involved in the organisation.
     The simple truth is that EV is a group of rather ordinary law-abiding
 people, who feel that their lives have been enriched by a message of peace to
 be found within, as taught by Prem Rawat, also known as Maharaji.
     We hope that in the future, Australian reporters will contact Elan Vital
 directly if they require any information and rely only on credible and
 trustworthy sources before they publish.
     EV/IRCC was represented by Damian Scattini of Quinn & Scattini Solicitors
 in Brisbane.  Copies of the judgment and pleadings may obtained from him at
 (07) 3221 1838.

SOURCE Elan Vital