Tuesday Dec 5, 2023
Tuesday Dec 5, 2023

Yoga sect allegedly exploited women to lure men

2022 Sep 03, 11:13, BUENOS AIRES
Spanish tenor Placido Domingo gives an interview in Naples. (AP Photo)

An Argentina-based yoga group sexually exploited vulnerable women it called “geishas” to get money and influence from wealthy and powerful men around the world, including opera star Placido Domingo, who knew the organization’s leaders for more than two decades, according to interviews with former members and local authorities.

A sprawling investigation into the sect-like Buenos Aires Yoga School, which operated for over 30 years in Argentina’s capital, has uncovered what authorities are calling a criminal organization involved in sex trafficking, money laundering, involuntary servitude, illegal practice of medicine and other crimes. Nineteen members have been arrested in the investigation that reaches into the U.S., where six more suspects are sought.

Despite its name, the school did not offer yoga classes. Leaders are accused of preying on people to join its ranks with promises of eternal happiness and then exploiting them sexually and financially, according to charging documents.

Former members of the school and officials investigating the case told The Associated Press that the group forced female members to work as “geishas” who were assigned to make guests feel welcome at the school, with sex part of the expectations. Influential or wealthy men were matched up with members of the “Geishado VIP,” one of many groups of women that were forced to have sexual encounters in exchange for money and influence that benefited sect leaders, according to the charging documents. Some of the women were sent to the United States and Uruguay to have sex with men, a practice that amounted to slavery, authorities said.

Former member Pablo Salum said his mother and sister were among the women exploited in Argentina, and described orgies and sexual abuse of children.

Police escort Juan Percowicz to serve pre-trial detention at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo)
Police escort Juan Percowicz to serve pre-trial detention at his home in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (AP Photo)

Domingo found himself embroiled in the scandal after law enforcement officers carried out dozens of raids in Buenos Aires in August targeting the school. The famed tenor was “a consumer of prostitution” but isn’t accused of a crime because prostitution is legal in Argentina, said a law enforcement source in Argentina who, like other police and judicial sources in Buenos Aires, spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Domingo has publicly tried to distance himself from the group, which allegedly had multiple offices in the United States.

In 2019, numerous women told, they were sexually harassed by Domingo, considered one of the greatest opera singers of all time. More than 20 women came forward to accuse Domingo of inappropriate and sexually charged conduct that included groping and other unwanted touching, persistent late night phone calls, stalking them in dressing rooms and pressuring them into sexual relationships by offering advancement in the opera world. Several of the women said he punished them professionally when they refused his advances.

Sexual encounters were touted to members as a form of “healing” and offered a path to scaling the seven levels of the school’s strict hierarchy that had Percowicz at the top, according to charging documents.

Members also allegedly sold medical treatments for several ailments, including AIDS and drug addiction, that involved “sleep cures,” which essentially meant giving people drugs to help them sleep for days at a time. Authorities say the pseudo medical treatments were also done in the United States, where the group’s clinic CMI Abasto, had subsidiaries.


Yoga sect exploited women lure men Argentina-based yoga group sexually exploited to get money influence from wealthy powerful men The Associated Press
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