Police raid against the MISA yoga school in Italy: 20 suspects, including the guru Bivolaru

[Roxana Chirilă’s note: Despite the initial misunderstanding, I did not write this. I just got asked to post it (by the person who wrote it and who remains anonymous). My actual article discussing Italy and other issues is here.]

The prosecutor of Florence has ordered 25 raids across Italy against the Italian branches of the Romanian association “MISA” (which stands for “The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute”), which were carried out in collaboration with the anti-cult police. The raids took place in Bologna, Florence, Milan, San Benedetto del Tronto and Bari on the sixth and seventh of December 2012 and have been carried out not only in the quarters of the MISA branches, but also in the homes of involved suspects.

The prosecutor of Florence, Angela Pietroiusti, filed charges of conspiracy, enslavement, human trafficking and sexual violence. The investigation was caused by at least two complaints made by alleged victims of the disciples of the “holy man” (MISA’s Romanian guru – Gregorian Bivolaru). After they gathered the strength to break free from the movement, they told their stories. Other witnesses will be questioned on various issues.

The police seized computers, diaries, documents, but also videos which are now being examined by the investigators. Eighteen people, including Gregorian Bivolaru, are sued for alleged enslavement and sexual abuse.

The guru Bivolaru, aged 60, is an ambiguous figure. He has been imprisoned several times for various charges, including charges related to pornography. In 2005, Bivolaru, wanted in Romania for the crimes of sexual acts with minors and human trafficking, requested and was granted political asylum in Sweden.

“Liberation through sex? That isn’t a problem,” says an investigator, “sex itself is certainly not under investigation. But if it becomes a tool to commit abuse against other people, to enslave some, exploit others, the issue changes profoundly. Especially if it turns out that some people are emotionally fragile on a psychological level.”

The reaction of MISA representatives:

Florence:
”Yes, there was a raid. We do not know what we are accused of. This is a yoga school. We have the exclusive right for the MISA method. But we do not want to talk further: we are waiting to see where the investigation leads,” said a representative of the Atman Yoga Center in Florence, Simone Catocchia, involved in the raids ordered by the prosecutor of Florence against the alleged cult that would have formed based on the so-called ‘esoteric yoga’ which is part of the “The Movement for Spiritual Integration into the Absolute” led by the Romanian guru Gregorian Bivolaru (himself under investigation). (found here)

Genoa:
“Gregorian Bivolaru is our master, but we are responsible only for what we do here in Genoa.” Roberto Zambrenti, who runs the Atman Yoga center of Genoa alongside Daniela Trogu, does not comment on either rumors or international online complaints against MISA. He also deems the whole enquiry of the prosecutor’s office in Florence to be unwarranted: “It is a carbon copy of the judiciary attacks against this school which happened in other countries: it recently happened in Finland and now it is happening here in Italy.” He added, “The police came to our home and seized computer equipment and spiritual treatises. We have nothing to hide. I should also point out that in the charges against suspects there is no specific reference to sexual abuse or violence.” (found here, page 21)

Update, December 11: According to an article in Firenze Today, posted on the tenth of December, the investigators questioned 10 witnesses, considered possible victims. The witnesses are men and women whose ages range between 20 and 30, who according to the indictment were brought in a state of psychological subservience and then convinced to take part in violent sex acts, filmed without their knowledge. Currently there are 20 people investigated in the inquiry, students and instructors of the raided centers, who described those sexual practices as “necessary for spiritual evolution”. The usage of the secretly filmed footage is under investigation. One of the hypotheses is that they were sold as adult films.

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