Bishop accused of molesting boy alleges conspiracy

Author: John Lichfield
Date Published: 06/08/2001

THE BRITISH-BORN, Greek Orthodox Bishop of Nice has been forced to resign after being placed under criminal investigation for alleged sexual misconduct with an 11-year-old boy.

The bishop, Monseigneur Paul, 58 – formerly Peter Alderson – denies the accusation and claims he is the victim of a plot involving the Russian state and the French security services.

His personal diary, seized by investigators and leaked, in part, to the French press, relates his first meeting with the boy. It talks of the bishop’s “frenetic search for bodily pleasure” and “my failure of self-control”. However, the bishop’s lawyers have protested against the selective leaking of the diary and questioned the involvement of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST), one of France’s counter- espionage agencies.

Monseigneur Paul, who was formerly a monk at the celebrated Mount Athos monastery in Greece, had been Orthodox Bishop of Nice for nine years. He is said to be “resting” in another country. He claims he has been smeared by Moscow, on behalf of the Russian Orthodox Church, in an attempt to reclaim the cathedral in Nice and other property that passed to Greek orthodox control after the Russian revolution in 1917.

The investigating magistrate has also asked for an explanation of the role played by the DST, which was reportedly keeping watch over wealthy Russians visiting the cathedral. The French Riviera has become a favourite playground – and money-laundering centre – for the Russian mafia.

The bishop met the boy, and his grandmother, after officiating at the Saint-Dimitri Orthodox church in London in March 1999. He befriended them and invited the boy to spend four days with him in Nice that Christmas. Six weeks later, the boy lodged a complaint with police in London. He accused the bishop of assaulting him while they lay together on a bed watching a comic video.

The bishop was interviewed months later by police in Nice and – according to a statement, which he now challenges – admitted rubbing the boy’s back and helping him to undress. In the statement, the bishop said the fact that his hand trembled, because of Parkinson’s disease, could have been wrongly interpreted as an attempt to masturbate the boy. The bishop insisted his statement had been “largely suggested” by detectives who interviewed him, who had taken advantage of his poor health.

In his confidential report, also leaked to the press, Philippe Dorcet, the magistrate, said the bishop wrote in his diary “troubles which must have been especially painful for a clergyman and which suggest that you are not completely innocent of the accusations”. Attempts by the magistrate to re-interview the boy have failed. His family has left London and is now believed to be living in Moscow.

An unnamed “friend of the bishop” is alleged to have said that “certain DST agents are working [for] the Russians, who want to kick us out of the cathedral”. The magistrate has now served a summons on two Nice police officers “who reportedly work for the DST, from the fourth floor of the Police Nationale headquarters, on Avenue Foch in Nice”.

Maitre Eric Borghini, the bishop’s lawyer, said his client had resisted pressure for the cathedral to return to Russian control, and had now been replaced by a bishop more sympathetic to Moscow.

He said: “This case has been fabricated piece by piece, on the basis of feeble premises and presumptions, a botched police investigation, unacceptable pressures, and the intervention of the Russians, who have now got their way. The bishop is no longer there.”