Spanish opera star Plácido Domingo may have been a client of the Buenos Aires Yoga School, a sex trafficking ring that Argentine authorities dismantled last week after over 30 years, according to sources close to the investigation. A series of wiretaps ordered by Judge Ariel Lijo include the recording of a client that prosecutors in Argentina have revealed to be the famous tenor. In the recording, the man speaks with a woman who calls herself Mendy, to whom he explains how their meeting should take place. The woman later speaks with the leader of the sect and celebrates that the client, allegedly Domingo, has already “organized the deal” so that “[his] agents don’t notice.” Sources close to the case say that Plácido Domingo has not been charged with any crimes, but “a huge amount of paper and digital documentation” is still being reviewed. Domingo did not respond to requests for comment.
The telephone conversation, whose date is unknown – though Domingo performed at the Teatro Colón in the Argentine capital last April – was leaked on Tuesday afternoon. It consists of three parts. In the first, Mendy and Juan Percowicz, the cult’s leaders, who were arrested last Friday along with 20 other people, decide to accept the request of the man who makes the call. “Plácido said that he could come to visit us, that is, he is going to come to visit me. Because he is about to go home to New York and he remembered it yesterday,” says the woman in the recordings that are part of the court file. Due to the importance of the meeting, Percowicz authorizes the use of the so-called “Museum,” a building in the center of Buenos Aires set up for sexual encounters. In a second audio, the alleged voice of Plácido Domingo is heard giving instructions to Mendy. “When we leave dinner, we will travel separately. We’ll do it that way because my agents are going to go up to the room when I go up, and they are going to stay on the same floor,” says the man, who the investigation indicates is Plácido Domingo. He proceeds to indicate to the woman the number of the room in which they should meet. Having closed the deal, Mendy calls the boss back. “He called me and put together a plan so that I could stay in the hotel without the agents realizing it,” she tells Percowicz. “What a degenerate you are,” he responds.
Plácido Domingo was one of the artists accused of sexual harassment during the #MeToo movement. In August 2019, the Associated Press revealed that some 20 women had accused him of sexual abuse. Many of his shows were canceled as a result. He denied the accusations, but reports from the American Union of Musical Artists and the Los Angeles Opera – of which the singer was appointed director in 2003, a position he resigned as a result of the scandal – concluded that the testimonies were “credible” and that the tenor had engaged in “inappropriate behavior.” He later apologized for the pain that he caused the women. He has never been tried, charged or convicted of the accusations, and in 2021 he resumed performing.
A cult that hid a prostitution ring
Last Friday, the Argentine police conducted 50 raids and arrested 24 members of the Buenos Aires Yoga School. The detainees included Percowicz, an 84-year-old former notary and the organization’s leader and founder. They have been charged with belonging to a cult that victimized hundreds of people who came to the school in search of “happiness,” and instead were stripped of all their possessions, forced into servitude and even prostituted.
The cult used textbook methods to dupe their victims. They used hierarchical recruiting systems disguised as philosophy courses and a well-oiled operation to keep the money flowing into their coffers. At the top of the seven-level pyramid stood Percowicz, who called himself “Angel” or “Master.” Underneath him were “Apostles” (level six), “Geniuses” (level five), and “Pupils” (level four). Levels 1-3 were for ordinary humans. According to the indictment, the high-level members were in charge of the various activities that channeled people and resources to the organization.
Once inside, the women were forced to undergo a “geisha” apprenticeship, a euphemism for prostitution, and were turned over to wealthy businessmen who paid for their services. In return, the women were awarded points that enabled them to ascend to the next level of the pyramid. The “Pupils” also gave up their assets and paid fees of between $250 and $1,000 a month, depending on their income. Percowicz is an old acquaintance of the Argentine justice system. The Argentine justice system is very familiar with Percowicz. In 1993, he was charged with the same crimes that have now landed him in jail, but escaped justice when his case bounced around three different courts because of his connections with local politicians and international human rights organizations. The charges against Percowicz and the “yoga school” were ultimately dropped back then, but almost 30 years later, it’s time for Percowicz and his accomplices to face justice again.
At the time of his arrest, he had more than a million dollars and almost a kilo of gold bullion in his possession. The members of the group are spread across Argentina and the United States. According to an Argentine police report, “the profits obtained from the exploitation of all these people – students and patients – were laundered through real estate agents and a notary’s office, which the organization has in our country, and different foundations created in the United States, thereby generating a constant flow of foreign currency for said organization.”