Bharat Express

How Yoga Guru Lured Women Into Sex Ring, Victims Reveal How They Were Brainwashed

A year later, at the age of sixteen, Arabela Marques was among about 300 women who paraded nude at the Black Sea.

When Agnes Arabela Marques met the head of a contentious yoga sect that was allegedly operating a global tantric sex ring that exploited women as slaves, she was just 15 years old.
“At first he seemed nice,” Arabela Marques remarked of 71-year-old guru Gregorian Bivolaru, who was apprehended last week in Paris following a six-year manhunt on allegations of people trafficking, rape, exploitation, and kidnapping.

In 1999, Arabela Marques—a dual citizen of Romania and Portugal—had recently followed her elder sister from a small Romanian town to Bucharest, the country’s capital, to enroll in Bivolaru’s Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) yoga school.
Among other rituals, the school taught tantric yoga, a practice loosely based on an ancient Hindu philosophy about achieving liberation through sex. It was one of the first in a network that eventually spread to over 30 countries.

Arabela Marques’s concerns regarding the curriculum were alleviated by the presence of “important people” in the student body, such as physicians and solicitors.
“I told myself I had nothing to worry about,” she continued. However, things quickly took a dark turn. She accepted Bivolaru’s invitation to his house, where she was forced to engage in lesbian acts with twelve other women and, later, to engage in sexual relations with the almost-50-year-old Bivolaru, all of which were presented as a part of her initiation into tantric yoga.

She claimed, “We were told the sexual act with the guru was a consecration, that it was approved by God,” but Bivolaru instructed her “not to say anything” regarding the circumstances surrounding her loss of virginity.

A year later, at the age of sixteen, Arabela Marques was among about 300 women who paraded nude at the Black Sea “Miss Shakti” beauty pageant; some of them even engaged in public sex acts in front of thousands of spectators.

More than fifty women who were being held “in deplorable conditions” at two overcrowded houses in the suburbs of Paris were set free when the police moved in to arrest Bivolaru last week.
Among them were citizens of the US, Germany, Belgium, Argentina, Romania, and Belgium.
The police said the women had been “freed from a sect” and that they found sex toys, pornographic material, and photos of Bivolaru.

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At the guru’s own home in the southeastern Paris suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, they also found over 200,000 euros ($215,000) in cash, pornography, and fake identity documents.
Ashleigh Freckleton, a 31-year-old Australian woman who joined a MISA ashram in Romania in 2018, took part in one of the French “initiation rituals”.

On arrival in Paris, she was taken with a group of other mostly foreign women to a house in the Paris suburbs with all the blinds drawn, where they were shown pornography, hypnotised, and encouraged to take part in orgies. Her passport and telephone were confiscated, she told.

The women were also given Bivolaru’s urine to drink but Freckleton pulled up short at having sex with a man presented as “an enlightened being”.
“I knew I needed to get out,” she said.

Last week’s raid marked the end of a nearly two-decade-long quest by authorities in at least three jurisdictions – Romania, France, and Finland — to bring Bivolaru to justice.

In 2004, he fled Romania, where he was being investigated for sex with minors, for Sweden, where he obtained political asylum.
In 2013, a Romanian court condemned him in absentia to six years in prison but he avoided arrest until 2016 when he was arrested in France and handed over to Bucharest.
Within a year he was free, after securing early release, but was immediately the target of an Interpol search warrant after complaints from several Finnish women, who claimed they were forced to have sex with him in Paris.

It took six years before French police caught up with him last week and placed him in preventive custody, along with five other suspects.
A French human rights group has collected statements from 12 of his former followers alleging abuse.

One French judicial source informed that MISA, also known as ATMAN, taught tantric yoga with the aim of “conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques which sought to eliminate any notion of consent”.

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Bivolaru put pressure on women “to agree to participate in fee-paying pornographic practices in France and abroad” in addition to forcing them to have sex with him.
According to one investigator, the group had “pimping disguised as philosophy” and was “reminiscent of the mafia”.

The women he had sex with “loved him,” according to Bivolaru, a trained plumber who spent time in a mental health facility in the 1970s and 1980s for disseminating pornography in Communist-era Romania. Bivolaru has refuted the accusations.

ATMAN has declared that it is “not responsible and not accountable for the private life of students and teachers of member schools,” denouncing the investigation as a “slanderous witch-hunt.”

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In 2008, MISA was expelled from both the European Yoga Alliance and the International Yoga Federation due to what a French legal source described as their “illicit” commercial practices.
As per the official website yoga esoteric, which offers advice on “amorous energy control techniques”, “erotic postures”, and “the way to ecstasy”, Bivolaru retired as the director of MISA in 1995 but continued to be its “spiritual mentor”.

There have been previous accusations of sexual assault against several yoga masters and schools.
In 2018, 14 women filed allegations of rape and sexual assault against the head of Agama Yoga, one of the largest tantric yoga schools in the world, to the British newspaper Guardian.
In 1991, the Indian yoga superstar Sri Swami Satchidananda, who opened the Woodstock festival in 1969 with chants of “om”, was accused by several American women of sexual abuse.