Gregorian Bivolaru, a 71-year-old yoga leader, was arrested in the Paris region this week on charges of sexual abuse and exploitation. The arrest marked the culmination of a six-year police manhunt involving Interpol. A total of 40 individuals were also apprehended in the operation, which freed 26 people described as sect victims living in deplorable conditions. French authorities have been investigating a range of suspected crimes, including rape, human trafficking, illegal confinement, and preying on followers as part of a sect.
Alleged victims have come forward, detailing accounts of coercion and sexual exploitation by Bivolaru. They describe him as a guru who manipulated women into sexual relationships under the guise of spiritual elevation. The group, initially known as MISA and later as the Atman yoga federation, allegedly engaged in non-consensual sexual activities under the facade of tantra yoga teachings. The group’s “ashrams” were centers for indoctrination and sexual exploitation, disguised as spiritual enlightenment.
Bivolaru, who is Romanian but also holds Swedish nationality, is currently in custody. It is unclear if he has legal representation. The investigation into his activities spans across Europe, with reports of systematic sexual exploitation in Finland and Denmark. The French judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity, revealed that yoga retreats held in and around Paris and the Alpes-Maritimes region of southern France sought to involve participants in sexual activities.
Bivolaru’s transition from yoga guru to international fugitive has been marked by legal twists. After fleeing Romania in 2004, he obtained asylum in Sweden, evading extradition. Romanian authorities later accused him of leading a criminal network within MISA and exploiting followers through extortion and sexual abuse. He was sentenced in absentia in Romania in 2013 for sexual relations with a minor. Bivolaru was briefly imprisoned following his extradition from France in 2016 but was later released on probation. The Romanian state was subsequently mandated to compensate him with 50,000 euros for delays in his trial.