A yoga cult allegedly exploited women to attract men like opera star Placido Domingo
Buenos Aires: According to interviews with former members and local authorities.
A sprawling investigation into the cult-like Buenos Aires yoga school that operated for more than 30 years in the Argentine capital has uncovered what authorities call a criminal organization involved in sex trafficking, money laundering money, involuntary servitude, the illegal practice of medicine and other crimes. . Nineteen members have been arrested in connection with the investigation which extends to the United States, where six other suspects are wanted.
Despite its name, the school did not offer yoga classes. The leaders are accused of preying on people to join their ranks with promises of eternal happiness and then sexually and financially exploiting them, according to charging documents.
Former school members and officials investigating the case said the group forced female members to work as “geishas” responsible for making guests feel welcome at the school, the sex as part of the expectation. Influential or wealthy men were put in contact with members of the “Geishado VIP”, one of the many groups of women who were forced to have sex in exchange for money and influence for the benefit of the chiefs of sect, according to the indictment documents. Some women have been sent to the United States and Uruguay to have sex with men, a practice that amounts to slavery, authorities said.
Some members of the group were reduced to “a situation of slavery”, forced to have sex and put in charge of domestic tasks at school such as cleaning and cooking, according to the investigation documents and a police official. police.
Domingo became embroiled in the scandal after law enforcement officers carried out dozens of raids in Buenos Aires in August targeting the school. The famous tenor was “a consumer of prostitution” but is not charged with a crime because prostitution is legal in Argentina, said an Argentinian police source who, like other police and judicial sources in Buenos Aires, has spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
Authorities released recorded phone conversations earlier this year in which a man they identified as Domingo appeared to arrange a sexual encounter at his hotel in April in Buenos Aires with Susana Mendelievich, a concert pianist who prosecutors say , was a cult leader in charge of the “VIP Geishado.”
In one of the wiretaps, Mendelievich speaks with another cult leader about how the band had tried unsuccessfully for years to use their musical connections to recruit Domingo into the band, but it was worth the try. again while in Buenos Aires in April for a series of concerts. In another wiretap, Mendelievich asks cult leader Juan Percowicz if she can take Domingo to the “museum”, the moniker used to refer to the top floor of their 10-story building where influential men have had sex with women. group members. Mendelievich, 75, and Percowicz, 84, were arrested during the raids in August; both were released this week under house arrest.