Guru and/or sexual predator?
Gregorian Bivolaru was arrested and then indicted in France. In total, 15 people were indicted, including six imprisoned, following this raid. They are suspected of being involved in large-scale sexual violence within an international yoga movement accused of sectarian excesses.
“Behind the promise of controlling erotic energies, the Atman yoga school, present in around thirty countries, is suspected of having pushed hundreds of young women into orgies or into non-consensual relations with their ‘spiritual leader'”, writes Libération , which co-signed with RFI a long investigation into this issue.
Gregorian Bivolaru, 71, of Romanian and Swedish nationality, has just been arrested in France. He is the founder of Misa, (Movement for Spiritual Integration towards the Absolute), an international group, presented as focused on the practice of yoga, a group known today as Atman.
Arrested in a house in Ivry-sur-Seine, a suburb of Paris, it was in his home that he allegedly practiced ” sexual initiations” of tantric yoga, a practice which promises to achieve ecstasy of the body and the mind.
He was indicted for four offenses: aggravated rape (in conjunction with several other rapes committed against other victims), kidnapping by an organized gang, human trafficking by an organized gang, abuse of vulnerability by the leader of a group pursuing activities that create, maintain, or exploit the psychological or physical subjection of participants. 14 other suspects were also indicted. Several women are among them.
In total, forty-one people were placed in police custody, among them reportedly “important leaders” of the sect in France, specifies a source close to the investigation. A gigantic dragnet led by the Caimades (assistance and intervention unit in matters of sectarian aberrations), the OCRVP (Central Office for the Repression of Violence against Persons), under the direction of a judge Parisian education. Some 175 police officers were mobilized for this large-scale operation.
In 2013, this “conspiracy theorist” was already convicted in absentia in Romania for rape of a minor. Accused of pedophilia and human trafficking – which he denies – he is wanted by Interpol for “trafficking in women”.
Women under influence
Twenty-six women, several of whom were under influence, were released during the arrests. These “victims, taken from the sect, were housed in cramped conditions and deplorable hygiene” , specifies the judicial source.
This intervention follows a report, at the end of July 2022, from Miviludes (Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses) to the Public Prosecutor. This organization had received information from the Human Rights League reporting 12 reports from former members of Misa.
According to a judicial source, Misa, renamed Atman during its expansion outside Romania, taught tantra yoga, with the aim of “conditioning victims to accept sexual relations via mental manipulation techniques aimed at removing any notion of consent. Many women of different nationalities say they have been victims of the actions of the Misa organization and its leader.
The Paris public prosecutor’s office opened a judicial investigation in July 2023, for various offenses including kidnapping in an organized gang, a crime punishable by 30 years in prison, abuse of vulnerability in an organized gang by member of a sect, rape or human trafficking humans in organized gangs.
Hundreds of followers
The Misa has many yoga schools and other branches. This group encouraged female victims “to accept sexual relations with the leader of the group” and/or to “engage in pornographic practices paid for in France and abroad”.
As early as 2008, Misa was excluded “from the International Yoga Federation and the European Yoga Alliance for its commercial practices deemed illicit”, recalled the judicial source, who also underlines that it has already been the subject of a procedure in Italy.
“It is difficult to quantify the number of followers” in France, but “it’s several hundred people” . According to the judicial source, “the investigations revealed a compartmentalized organization, following a usual procedure in matters of organized crime.”
An ashram that became a sexual prison
“The aim of the courses was to have people participate in sexual and/or physical activities (…) in conditions allowing at this stage to characterize the offense of trafficking in human beings,” the same judicial source further specifies. “The people who stayed there denounced having been forced to pay for their stay for the women by engaging in sexual video chats, and for the men through manual labor,” she added.
“An ashram was clearly exclusively dedicated to satisfying the desires of the principal accused”, Gregorian Bivolaru, “women were taken there from other establishments, and placed on hold in a first accommodation” .
It’s an “insane case, with a group resembling the mafia, pimping under supposedly philosophical trappings “, a source close to the case recently commented to AFP.