MOSCOW, July 30 (RIA Novosti) – Moscow police have once again entered the dark realms of the paranormal, busting a Russian “psychic” ring that has been lifting curses for money – or, as the police claim, simply scaring clients into thinking they were jinxed.
The alleged psychics ran a parapsychology center called Sapphira, complete with a call center, the city police website said Tuesday.
The psychics also promoted their company through shows on cable television such as Komsomolskaya Pravda TV.
Sapphira staff convinced callers they were cursed, and claimed to be performing “magical” rituals during their phone conversations. The staff convinced their potential clients they needed supernatural help – which the center then provided for payment, the report said.
The police did not disclose the group’s price list for lifting curses, but said it seized 4 million rubles ($120,000) and a list of clients during raids at Sapphira’s office and the homes of its staff.
Six alleged psychics now face up to 10 years in prison on fraud charges, the report said. It did not release the suspects’ names, only the old-style aliases they used – Alexy of Siberia and Grigory – and said the two founders were natives of St. Petersburg and Kazakhstan.
The case is not the first incidence of Russian police taking on self-styled psychics. Last summer, more than 20 people were detained in a crackdown on another parapsychology center in Moscow, which reportedly employed more than 500 workers at its call center and had a monthly turnover of 500 million rubles ($15 million).
The occult services and alternative medicine business in Russia had a $2 billion turnover and 800,000 employees as of 2010, Regions.ru news website reported, citing a member of the State Duma’s health protection committee. A bill regulating the business has been stalled in the federal parliament for the past five years.
About 20 percent of Russians have sought paranormal help at least once in their lives, according to a nationwide poll by the independent Levada Center in 2010. The core client base of the psychic industry are women aged 25-55 looking for magic to bring success in love, Vesti.ru said at that time.