New Age Human Trafficker Arrested

On Tuesday, November 28, French law enforcement arrested 41 people in raids against a controversial cult, including its leader, the new age guru Gregorian Bivolaru, a kundalini yoga master. The individual, currently 71 years old, has Romanian and Swedish nationalities. The bust took place in Paris and southern France after some 175 police officers were deployed for the operation, during which 26 women – several of whom were held against their will – were rescued. They had been “kept in deplorable conditions,” according to sources. The network called Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute (MISA) runs several yoga schools and related operations with “several hundred” members.

On its official website, Yoga Esoteric, the group describes itself as the “largest yoga school in Romania and Europe” and Bivolaru as its “spiritual mentor.” They claim the success “comes from a traditional rigorous approach of the yoga system, from a great number of both theoretical and practical aspects studied and the coherent integration of the yoga values and practices in the Western cultural environment.” Its tantra yoga section includes tips on “amorous energy control techniques,” “erotic postures” and a section titled “the way to ecstasy.” As a bonus, the site also contains a page dedicated to “alien civilizations.”

MISA was kicked out of the International Yoga Federation and the European Yoga Alliance in 2008 because they considered its practices too problematic. Now known as the Atman Yoga Federation, they described the situation as a witch hunt, denying responsibility for the private lives of students and teachers at its member schools. Bivolaru was granted asylum as a refugee in Sweden in 2005, thereby delaying legal proceedings in Romania amid charges of sexual misconduct with minors. In 2013, further investigations in Denmark exposed exploitation within yoga centers run by Bivolaru and an associate. Young women were sexually exploited and filmed without their knowledge in purported tantra and sex rituals.

A former member of the Natha Yoga Center in Denmark described women as treated like slaves, overburdened with chores, and sworn to silence. The woman revealed that the exploitation and sexual abuse extended to the distribution of films, including one sold at gas stations across Denmark and another shot on a ship in the Black Sea. In France, similar yoga retreats held in and around Paris and in the Alpes-Maritimes region sought to make followers take part in sexual activities. Attendees testified that women were forced to pay for the stays by doing video sex chats and that men performed manual labor instead. He was sentenced in absentia in Romania in 2013 but wasn’t imprisoned until his extradition from France in 2016, leading to a brief imprisonment followed by release on probation.

Ridiculously enough, the Romanian state was later mandated to compensate Bivolaru with €50,000 for delays in his trial. The arrests follow a probe into the sect launched by Paris prosecutors in July on suspicions of kidnapping, rape, human trafficking and other charges. The investigation was sparked by France’s Human Rights League NGO, which contacted the prosecutor’s office after receiving statements from 12 former MISA members. The cult 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” with several women of different nationalities stating they had been victims of the MISA organization and its leader.

Apologist 2011 report on the deviant cult leader

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