Calls for in­quiry into ‘ cult’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JANE HANSEN

A HEALTH and life­style busi­ness that was found in a defama­tion trial to be a “so­cially harm­ful cult” should be the sub­ject of a ju­di­cial in­quiry, La­bor MP for Lis­more Janelle Saf­fin told state par­lia­ment.

Universal Medicine, based in north­ern NSW, is run by former ten­nis coach Serge Ben­hayon, who claims to be the rein­car­na­tion of Leonardo da Vinci, and of­fers treat­ments such as “es­o­teric breast mas­sage” and “ovar­ian read­ings”.

Last year, Mr Ben­hayon brought Supreme Court defama­tion pro­ceed­ings against vo­cal critic and former client Es­ther Rock­ett but it back­fired spec­tac­u­larly when the jury found it was true to say he led a “so­cially harm­ful cult” and made “bo­gus heal­ing claims”.

Ms Saf­fin called for the in­quiry last week to in­ves­ti­gate the “cult” that has been blamed for mar­riage breakups, pil­fered in­her­i­tances and even landed a baby in hospi­tal after it was placed on a strict diet.

“I call for an in­quiry not be­cause it is a cult, but be­cause it has in­fil­trated my com­mu­nity ... ped­dling its per­ni­cious in­flu­ence over the lives of peo­ple at their most vul­ner­a­ble: chil­dren, the sick and the wounded,” Ms Saf­fin told par­lia­ment.

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