Sex, brand­ing cult leader jailed after Mex­ico bust

Sunday Tribune - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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