BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Opera star Placido Domingo’s title has appeared in an investigation of a sect-like group in Argentina that additionally had U.S. workplaces and whose leaders have been charged with crimes, together with sexual exploitation.
Domingo, the Spanish opera singer who has confronted accusations of sexual harassment from numerous women over the past three years, has not been accused of any wrongdoing within the Argentina case.
“Placido didn’t commit a crime, nor is he part of the organization, but rather he was a consumer of prostitution,” mentioned a regulation enforcement official, who spoke solely on situation of anonymity as a result of the investigation continues. Prostitution will not be unlawful in Argentina.
Law enforcement officers have carried out dozens of raids in Buenos Aires concentrating on the Buenos Aires Yoga School, which “built a cult around its leader” and decreased members to “a situation of slavery and/or sexual exploitation,” in keeping with prosecutors’ paperwork within the Argentine case towards the college.
The group arrange a enterprise construction that included workplaces in Argentina and the United States, together with branches in a minimum of three U.S. cities: Las Vegas, Chicago and New York.
So far, 19 folks have been detained in Argentina, whereas a minimum of three suspects are thought to stay at giant contained in the South American nation and 4 are being sought within the United States.
Domingo has not spoken publicly concerning the newest developments and his representatives didn’t reply to requests for remark.
Wiretaps that have been a part of the judicial investigation recorded conversations by which a person who authorities determine as Domingo spoke to a member of the group, recognized as Susana Mendelievich, about assembly up with the opera star whereas he was in Buenos Aires for a sequence of live shows in April.
The investigation into the sect has implicated folks with connections to the classical music world and who carried out with Domingo up to now, together with Mendelievich, an Argentine pianist.
Mendelievich is alleged to be the particular person in command of the group’s sexual exploitation actions, in keeping with a judicial official, who additionally spoke on situation of anonymity.
In one recording, the person recognized as Domingo talks to Mendelievich about how she will go as much as his lodge room with out being detected by his workers.
“When we leave the dinner we come separately, right?” the person recognized as Domingo says within the recording.
Mendelievich then talks to Juan Percowicz, 84, who was the alleged chief of the group.
“He already called me and set up the deal so I can stay in his hotel tonight without his agents realizing,” she mentioned.
In an earlier name with Percowicz, Mendelievich implies she had beforehand met with Domingo in New York.
“Among other things … Placido said he could come visit us. I mean, visit us means coming to visit me because he comes to my house in New York, and he reminded me of that yesterday,” the girl recognized as Mendelievich could be heard saying within the recording.
Sexual trafficking and exploitation have been the primary sources of revenue for the group that had an estimated income of round $500,000 monthly, in keeping with the judicial official.
The Buenos Aires Yoga School had quite a few teams of girls who have been pressured to keep up sexual encounters in alternate for cash, prosecutors allege. At least seven girls have been included into the group once they have been nonetheless youngsters or youngsters and have been sexually exploited, in keeping with the prosecution’s paperwork.
People got here from the United States to Argentina to have intercourse with the ladies and investigators say girls have been additionally transported to neighboring Uruguay and the U.S. for sexual encounters.
“The encounters supposed a practice of sexual slavery because the ‘students’ were put at the disposal of the clients at the time and place they wanted, for long periods of time,” in keeping with the paperwork.
The group had ties to different well-known public figures and their names ought to turn out to be public as soon as indictments are made official, the judicial official added.
In addition to alleged sexual exploitation, the group purportedly offered therapies, together with what have been often called “sleep cures” that concerned giving folks treatment that might make them sleep for days at a time.
Percowicz, together with different members of the group, has been arrested beneath the order of Judge Ariel Lijo, who positioned dozens of properties and automobiles beneath embargo.
The group had roughly 179 college students, all of whom have been ranked in seven ranges. Advancing ranges concerned a “spiritual evolution” with the purpose of reaching the seventh degree that implied “eternal reincarnation.”
In order to advance, members needed to take part in quite a few programs and perform duties, with Percowicz holding the ultimate choice on who might advance. The course of concerned socially isolating the members from their “biological family” and associates, in keeping with the charging paperwork.
The group additionally supplied “philosophical coaching” programs by means of a separate firm, the B.A. Group, for many who had but to affix the college. These programs on topics like “personal happiness” and “leadership” have been usually used to woo new members.
The group was beforehand beneath judicial investigation within the early Nineties however the probe was closed earlier than it reached trial.
Domingo, now 81, was one in every of opera’s largest and most profitable stars and a member of The Three Tenors, which included José Carreras and the late Luciano Pavarotti.
Domingo’s picture was tarnished within the United States after greater than 20 girls accused him, in tales printed by The Associated Press, of sexual harassment and different inappropriate habits in encounters that occurred from the late Nineteen Eighties to the 2000s. Dozens extra within the classical music world instructed AP his habits was an open secret within the business.
Investigations by the American Guild of Musical Artists and the Los Angeles Opera, the place Domingo had served as common director, discovered sexual harassment allegations towards him to be credible.
The accusations and subsequent findings halted Domingo’s profession within the U.S. however he has continued to carry out in Europe and Latin America. His web site says he’s at present on tour in Mexico with performances later this month scheduled in Italy.
Associated Press author Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco contributed to this report.