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There was a scene, when the Obscurial destroyed one of the buildings, this one where the Niffler (which stole all the gold from the movie) was hiding behind paiting/picture on the wall and they all were attacked by the Murtlap from the case.

After that, police came and asked witnesses if it was a gas explosion and one of them, while trying to say that it was caused by magic got affected with a spell casted Newt.

It was a strange spell that was 'sniffed' by the witness and I remember only one similar scene from HP, in Gringotts, when this spell was used on one of the Goblins when Harry, goblin on his back, Hermione (transformed to Bellatrix) and Ron were trying to get into the bank and as I remember well - it was Imperio.

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Was this spell in Fantastic Beasts Imperio too? If so, why? How? Was it 'legal' those days? :D

2 Answers 2

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It could have been a confundus spell, it confused the witnesses even more and gave them a clear choice of some kind, that of there being a gas leak. Nobody in MACUSA said anything about the unforgivable curses being used while Newt was in New York, even though they might have overlooked this in the movie. And we know from the movies that Imperio gives that weavy smoke but there is no explanation in the movie, so this is more of a guess from my side.

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  • Imperio causes smoke? I don't remember anything about that. A blank look in the eyes, sure. No smoke, as I recall. Mar 27, 2017 at 9:59
  • A bit of mystic powder if I may. In both Harry Potter and Fantastic beasts it is shown that imperio causes a little smoke like powder that the cursed person inhales. @thedarklord Mar 27, 2017 at 10:14
  • Maybe it imperio isn't an unforgivable curse in the USA. Jun 2, 2018 at 11:52
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Newt likely had used the Confundus Charm.

The spell Newt used was almost certainly not Imperio, since Newt doesn’t tend to use dark magic. The screenplay gives no further details on what spell Newt used. However, it seems most likely to be the Confundus Charm, which is used to cause confusion and make its target more susceptible to believing what they are told.

“HOBO
(drunk)
It warn’t gas – hey, officer, I seen it! – it wuzza – a gigantic – a huge hippopotto—

TINA is looking up at the ruined building, and misses NEWT sliding his wand from his sleeve and pointing it at the HOBO.

HOBO
—gas. It was gas.”
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Newt uses the Confundus Charm on a police officer in France, so it is one of the spells he knows of and would think to use.

NEWT points his wand at the POLICEMAN.

NEWT
Confundus.

The POLICEMAN lurches as though drunk, blinks, shakes his head, then giggles and ambles off, raising his hat at disconcerted passersby.”
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Newt Confunds a police officer in France

The Confundus Charm creates confusion in its target. It is used in the Harry Potter series to confuse the guards at Gringotts into thinking that they already scanned Harry, Ron and Hermione when they had not.

“Knowing that he had only seconds, Harry pointed Draco’s wand at each of the guards in turn and murmured, ‘Confundo,’ twice. Unnoticed by Travers, who was looking through the bronze doors at the inner hall, each of the guards gave a little start as the spells hit them.

Hermione’s long, black hair rippled behind her as she climbed the steps. ‘One moment, Madam,’ said the guard, raising his Probe.

‘But you’ve just done that!’ said Hermione, in Bellatrix’s commanding, arrogant voice. Travers looked round, eyebrows raised. The guard was confused. He stared down at the thin, golden Probe and then at his companion, who said in a slightly dazed voice, ‘Yeah, you’ve just checked them, Marius.”
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 26 (Gringotts)*

Newt could have used the Confundus Charm to make the hobo forget about the hippopotamus and believe what everyone else suspected to be true - that the damage was caused by a gas leak.

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