Placido Domingo, the Spanish opera star, was embroiled in a new scandal after it was revealed that he had been targeted by an alleged ring of international sex slaves.
The Buenos Aires Yoga School has operated in the Argentine capital for 30 years, recruiting vulnerable young women with a promise of “eternal happiness” and then sexually exploiting them, according to Argentine prosecutors.
They said the group, which they privately dubbed “Cult Inc”, was a criminal organization involved in sex trafficking, money laundering and involuntary servitude. There were no yoga classes.
Former members of the group said the women inside were called “geishas” and “slaves” and expected them to have sex with the guests at the 26-classroom school.
A former member, Pablo Salum, said children as young as 11 were forced to watch orgies and were expected to have sex under the direction of the group’s leaders. He was brought into the sect by his mother when he was eight.
Rich men were matched with women
Rich and powerful men were matched with women in the group’s “Geishado VIP” section.
Some of the women were sent to have sex in Uruguay and the United States, where the sect had property in Las Vegas, according to prosecutors.
84-year-old leader Juan Percowicz, known as The Angel or The Master, and 18 others were arrested in a raid in August.
Domingo has known at least four prominent members of the sect for years through musical ties. Two of them were famous pianists and composers who had performed in the United States.
A former member of the group, known as Carlos, told The Associated Press that he had seen Domingo visit the school several times in the 1990s.
This included once as a guest of honor at a dinner party, where he sat with classical musicians who were among the leaders of the group.
Domingo, 81, was embroiled in the scandal after Argentine authorities released tapes of a recorded telephone conversation in the voice of a man they identified as the tenor.
He appeared to be arranging a meeting at his hotel in Buenos Aires with Susana Mendelievich, a concert pianist who according to prosecutors was a sect leader in charge of the Geishado VIP.
I tried to recruit Domingo
There was no evidence that the meeting had taken place.
In a separate phone call Mendelievich discussed with another cult leader how they had been trying for years, but unsuccessfully, to recruit Domingo.
The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported saying in the phone call: “We have been trying to use this music for 30 years [connections] and we still haven’t succeeded. “
Mendelievich was also recorded asking Percowicz if he could take Domingo to the “museum”.
That was the top floor of their 10-story building in Buenos Aires, where prosecutors claim that men had sex with female members of the sect. There was no evidence that Domingo had gone there.
It was not charged
Domingo has not been charged and is not under investigation.
In the wake of the raids, the tenor has publicly distanced himself from the group. He said to a TV station in Mexico where he was performing: “Of course, I have nothing to do with that.”
He did not deny that his was the voice in the recording, but said he felt betrayed by musicians he considered friends.
He said, “It makes me sad when you’ve had friends for many years and you realize you’ve been used.”
In 1996 Domingo performed in front of 10,000 people at the Buenos Aires Polo Grounds.
He closed the evening with compositions by three members of the Buenos Aires Yoga School, one of whom was Mendielivich.
The La Nacion newspaper review of the time called it an inferior composition.
Argentine commissioner Ricardo Juri said the sect tried to maintain its relations with Domingo to “generate business”.
He told El Pais: “Having Placido Domingo around was useful.”
Two years ago Domingo accepted “full responsibility” after being accused of sexual harassment by numerous women.
An investigation into his behavior was conducted by lawyers hired by the American Guild of Musical Artists. She subsequently canceled concerts in the United States, but continued to perform in other parts of the world.
At that time Domingo said: “I am truly sorry for the harm I have caused them.
“I understand now that some women may have feared to speak honestly due to concerns that their career would be negatively impacted if they did.
“Even if it was never my intention, no one should ever feel that way.”