BRUGES, Belgium (AP) _ Eight nuns moved to a castle in southern France after their convent was sold for $1.4 million, and police were investigating the religious order's purchase of racehorses and other property, a court official said Wednesday.

Roman Catholic Church officials said the sale occurred without the bishop of Bruges' permission.

He has excommunicated the convent's mother superior and the youngest of the eight nuns for failing to submit the convent's books for examination to the diocese and for refusing to let a church official enter the convent.

Investigators have arrested the convent's financial director, Ronny Crab, 35, and charged him with swindling, abuse of trust, extortion and forgery.

Police have uncovered unusual practices for a religious order, including the purchases of a Mercedes-Benz auto equipped with a bar, a farmhouse, racehorses and the dilapidated castle in Tarbes, France, where they are living, the court official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said investigators had traveled to Tarbes, near Lourdes, to determine if the Poor Sisters of Clare agreed to the $1.4 million sale of the convent to a building corporation.

The nuns left the same day, March 6, for the south of France, and the court official said.

Authorities have sequestered the convent's remaining art treasures, some of which date from the 15th century.