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Bhagwan sect's legacy puts justice on trial: Briton wanted over huge phone tap operation

THE TWO women facing extradition are not the only British former members of the Rajneesh sect wanted by the American authorities, writes Phil Reeves.

According to documents on file at the US District Court in Portland, Oregon, there is an outstanding warrant for the arrest of a British man whom the authorities believe masterminded the biggest illegal telephone tapping operation in US history.

In the four years that the sect occupied a 66,000-acre ranch, before it broke up in the wake of a criminal investigation in 1985, the Bhagwan's disciples ran a complex tapping operation in which they listened to hundreds of calls by police, public officials and journalists.

After raiding the sect's multi- million dollar headquarters, detectives recovered several thousand tapes. Electronic bugs were found which showed that the Rajneeshees - who were paranoid about the hostility of the outside world - had the capability of recording conversations on 36 telephone lines simultaneously.

Court papers show that a former sect member called Anand Julian, also known as Julian James, is still wanted in the US to face five charges of conspiring to commit eavesdropping.

The FBI believes that Mr James, a former Rank Xerox manager who was born in Warrington, Chesire, was the main architect behind the cult's electronic surveillance operation.

Sally Croft and Susan Hagan are fighting extradition on charges of conspiracy to murder. But the US-UK extradition treaty does not cover alleged telephone tapping offences - of which the two women are also accused - so US detectives can only arrest Mr James if he is caught on American soil. An FBI source confirmed that he was wanted, but declined to say where he thought Mr James was.

Mr James, Ms Croft and Ms Hagan were among a number of Britons who joined the sect run by the charismatic Rolls-Royce riding Bhagwan, who was eventually deported from the US and died in India in 1990. Other Britons included his personal doctor and the hairdresser of his personal assistant.