Scientology cross
The Church of Scientology cross Getty images

Police have raided a Church of Scientology centre in the north western Moscow region amid a crackdown on the Russian branches of the group.

The Losino-Petrovsky Center for Dianetics and Scientology was raided by police on Wednesday (29 March), Interfax news agency reported.

Officials told the TASS news agency the raid came as part of an investigation into "illegal entrepreneurship" launched by the FSB.

In recent years the organisation has faced a series of legal challenges in Russia. The Scientology Church of Moscow was disbanded, after a court found in November 2015 it was operating as a religious operation illegally.

Police raided more than a dozen Scientology-linked properties in Moscow and Saint Petersburg in June 2016 as part of the investigation into alleged illegal business dealings by the group. Investigators claimed that church members had been engaged in money laundering and property fraud.

The Russian justice ministry registers religious organisations as well as NGOs, a requirement for them to operate.

The Scientology church was founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard and was accorded the status of religion there in 1993.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously warned that Russia has contravened the rights of scientologists in refusing to register the church in several regions.