Sex, branding cult leader jailed after Mexico bust
NEW YORK: The leader of a secretive group accused of coercing female followers into having sex and being branded with his initials faced a federal judge on Friday who ordered him to remain behind bars weeks after his arrest in Mexico.
Keith Raniere, 57, responded “Yes, your honour” when Judge Steven L Tiscione asked whether he understood the charges the FBI filed against him – sex trafficking and forced labour conspiracy.
Raniere, who sold himself as a self-improvement guru to the stars, was brought to the US from Mexico on March 26. He did not enter a plea during the Brooklyn federal court hearing. His attorney said no bail was being requested, and issued a permanent order of detention.
“I’m feeling safe for the first time in years. I feel free,” said his ex-girlfriend, Barbara Boucher, who left him in 2009 and said she had been “stalked” by members of his group, NXIVM, pronounced Nexium.
She said that seeing him for the first time in nine years as he walked quietly into the courtroom wearing a pale green jumpsuit, she had “felt a lot of grief, like a death, because I deeply loved this man”.
“This man was brilliant and could have done a lot of good, if it weren’t for his dark side.”
In March, federal authorities raided an upstate New York residence near Albany connected to NXIVM and Raniere. The cult-like organisation also ran programmes in Mexico.
Raniere’s followers included Clare and Sara Bronfman, heiresses to the Seagram liquor fortune, and Emiliano Salinas Occelli, son of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who with a business partner controlled the Raniere-linked Executive Success Programmes in Mexico.
On Thursday, they cut all ties to their one-time leader.
“With this decision, we end our activities and collaboration with the brand ESP Mexico from today onward, as well as our professional and economic relationship with the United States NXIVM and its related entities,” they wrote in Spanish on their website.
Another disciple-turned-sexslave was TV actress Allison Mack, who starred in Smallville.
Founded in 1998, NXIVM promoted Raniere’s teachings as a kind of mystical, executive coaching designed to help people get the most out of life. Enrollees in its Executive Success Programmes paid handsomely for his advice, but also drew criticism from people who likened it to a cult.
Last year, the accusations took a new twist, with women who were part of a subgroup coming forward to say they had been physically branded near their pelvises with a surgical tool against their will. – Ap/african News Agency/ana