Judge indicts 19 yoga sects who used sex to lure the powerful

BUENOS AIRES — A judge in Argentina on Thursday indicted 19 people for their alleged involvement in a yoga school in Buenos Aires that operated as a cult and forced female members to have sex with rich and powerful men in order to obtain money and other benefits.

Judge Ariel Lijo has formally indicted 19 people for crimes including criminal conspiracy, trafficking for sexual exploitation, money laundering and smuggling.

The Buenos Aires Yoga School, which operated in Argentina’s capital for over 30 years under the direction of 84-year-old Juan Percowicz, didn’t actually offer yoga classes. Instead, it lured people with promises of eternal happiness before exploiting them sexually and financially, prosecutors say.

The group’s investigation revealed that opera star Placido Domingo had been in contact with the organization’s leaders for more than twenty years.

Lijo ruled that 14 of the 19 indicted individuals will be remanded in custody and their assets have been subject to an embargo. Prosecutors had demanded charges against 20 people.

Law enforcement officers continue to search for six suspects believed to be in the United States, where the school had offices in New York, Las Vegas and Chicago

In his resolution, Lijo says the school misled vulnerable people into participating, noting that leaders preyed on minors or serious health problems, including addictions. People were provoked to join with promises of healing and support, but were later exploited, often sexually, on behalf of the organization’s leaders.

The group operated by cutting off students from the outside world by providing them with living quarters, working within the organization, and ensuring that they socialized exclusively with people who were part of the organization.

Students were used and exploited, both sexually and financially, to gain economic advantage for Percowicz and other top leaders of the organization, Lijo said. Members were often forced to have sex with rich or powerful men in order to establish commercial relationships with the men considered their “boyfriends.”

Female students were forced to determine what they could get from each person, and they had to do everything possible to get it, Lijo said.

Percowicz claimed to have great wisdom and even “divine powers” as a way to indoctrinate students and explained his beliefs on a mixture of classical literature, as well as religious and spiritual texts.

It was up to Percowicz to decide how students progressed through the seven levels of the school’s strict hierarchy with the leader at the top, a system that Lijo says amounts to psychological coercion.

Although the group’s leaders promised the students that they would receive philosophical teachings and that they would be healed, the group’s leaders’ sole purpose was to make money, Lijo said.