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  • Writer's pictureBy The Financial District

Argentina 'Yoga Sect Exploited Women To Lure Men Like Placido Domingo

An Argentina-based yoga group sexually exploited vulnerable women it called “geishas” to get money and influence from wealthy and powerful men around the world, including opera star Placido Domingo, who knew the organization’s leaders for more than two decades, according to interviews with former members and local authorities, Daniel Politi, Jocelyn Gecker, Almudena Calatrava and Olga Rodriguez reported for the Associated Press (AP).

Photo Insert: Famed tenor Placido Domingo was “a consumer of prostitution” but isn’t accused of a crime because prostitution is legal in Argentina.

A sprawling investigation into the sect-like Buenos Aires Yoga School, which operated for over 30 years in Argentina’s capital, has uncovered what authorities are calling a criminal organization involved in sex trafficking, money laundering, involuntary servitude, illegal practice of medicine, and other crimes.

Nineteen members have been arrested in the investigation that reaches into the US, where six more suspects are sought. Domingo found himself embroiled in the scandal after law enforcement officers carried out dozens of raids in Buenos Aires in August targeting the school.

The famed tenor was “a consumer of prostitution” but isn’t accused of a crime because prostitution is legal in Argentina, said a law enforcement source in Argentina who, like other police and judicial sources in Buenos Aires, spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities released wiretapped phone conversations from earlier this year in which a man they identified as Domingo appears to be arranging a sexual meetup at his hotel in April in Buenos Aires with Susana Mendelievich, a concert pianist who prosecutors say was a sect leader in charge of the “Geishado VIP.”

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In one of the wiretaps, Mendelievich talks with another sect leader about how the group had tried unsuccessfully for years to use its music connections to recruit Domingo into the group but it was worth trying again while he was in Buenos Aires in April for a series of concerts.

In another wiretap, Mendelievich asks sect leader Juan Percowicz if she can take Domingo to “the museum,” the moniker used to refer to the top floor of their 10-story building where influential men had sex with group members. Mendelievich, 75, and Percowicz, 84, were detained in the raids in August; both were released this week to house arrest.

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Domingo has publicly tried to distance himself from the group, which allegedly had multiple offices in the United States. “Of course, I have nothing to do with that,” Domingo, 81, said last week in reference to the organization’s allegedly illegal activities.

In comments to a television station in Mexico, where he was performing, Domingo did not deny he was the man in the wiretapped recordings but said he felt betrayed by musicians he had considered to be friends. “It makes me sad when you’ve had friends for many years and you realize you have been used.”

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