Guru who branded his women

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

THE girl­friend of a “self­im­prove­ment guru to the stars”, who is ac­cused of co­erc­ing fe­male fol­low­ers into hav­ing sex and then get­ting their pu­bic re­gion branded with his ini­tials, has de­clared she feels “free” after he was re­fused bail by Amer­i­can au­thor­i­ties.

Keith Raniere, 57, was ar­rested in Mexico last month and faces charges of sex traf­fick­ing and forced labour.

Raniere’s ex-girl­friend Bar­bara Bouchey, who left him in 2009, said she was “stalked” by mem­bers of his group, NXIVM, pro­nounced Nex­ium.

“I’m feel­ing safe for the first time in years,” Ms Bouchey said.

Raniere’s lawyer Marc Ag­nifilo said his client was in­no­cent.

“The facts will show that Raniere didn’t com­pel or pres­sure any­one to do any­thing and that ev­ery­one was act­ing in ac­cor­dance with his or her free will,” he said.

Raniere’s dis­ci­ples in­cluded wealthy heiresses, a son of a for­mer pres­i­dent of Mexico and ac­tresses, in­clud­ing Smal­lville star Al­li­son Mack.

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.

Last year, women who were part of a NXIVM sub­group came for­ward to say that they had been phys­i­cally branded with a sur­gi­cal tool against their will.

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