New-age ‘esoteric’ breast and ovary massage healer under investigation over alleged charity law violations
June 22, 2014
A COLLEGE run by a new-age healer who offers ‘‘esoteric” breast and ovary massage is being investigated over claims it broke charity laws.
Serge Benhayon, who insists he is a reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci, has raised more than half a million dollars using a charity licence granted to him by the NSW government in July of 2012 to build an educational facility.
Mr Benhayon said his critics were liars and “cyber-bullies”
The former bankrupt tennis coach, who has no medical training, started Universal Medicine near Byron Bay in 1999, where he performs and teaches the so-called esoteric medicine.
But the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said it had “completed an initial assessment and commenced an investigation” after receiving a complaint last week that the College of Universal Medicine had breached charitable fundraising laws.
“The complaint also contains serious allegations in regard to conduct beyond the scope of NSW charitable fundraising laws and will be referred to police for consideration,” a spokesman said.
Mr Benhayon, a 50-year-old father of four who decided to become a healer after receiving an “energetic impress”, urges followers to avoid negative energy from cheese, alcohol and even tampons. He claims esoteric breast massage can assist to “heal many issues such as painful periods, polycystic ovaries, endometriosis, bloating, and premenstrual and menopausal symptoms”.
With family members also working as healers, he said in 2012 that Universal Medicine turns over $2 million a year in treatments and retreats in Byron Bay, Lismore, Brisbane, Vietnam and England.
Businessman Lance Martin, from Bangalow, on the state’s north coast, formally complained to the OLGR regarding the charitable licence and also to the Department of Fair Trading, claiming The College of Universal Medicine does not meet the definition of a charity.
“The College of Universal Medicine charitable activities are directed to benefiting the UM commercial business and propagating Serge Benhayon’s teachings and practices, and do not benefit the public,” the complaint said.
Mr Martin blames Universal Medicine for the breakup of his marriage in 2011 after his wife became involved with the group in 2009.
One objective of the college is to “teach, educate ongoingly and present for all men and women to have the understandings of the immutable energetic laws and sciences that govern all universal life and the way of livingness this entails”, its website states.
But Mr Martin, who claims an estimated $60,000 to $70,000 was spent on retreats and treatments in the three years before they broke up, said: “Every part of their life gets taken over — eating, sex, activities, friends, literature.”
He said he knew of 40 marriages that had broken up.
“It’s modern-day snake oil based on pseudoscience. They haven’t done any charity work, we’ve found no evidence of it,” Mr Martin said.
Mr Benhayon set up the College of Universal Medicine as a “charitable institution recognised by the Australian Tax Office”.
He also set up the Esoteric Practitioners Association so that his students can graduate with accreditation.
He runs courses that can range in price from $120 a day, to weekend retreats costing up to $1000.
He said in 2012 he made $36,000 from a single relationship course.
Treatments such as the breast massage at the Goonellabah headquarters cost around $70.
The charity has raised over $548,000 to build a school building on Mr Benhayon’s land.
“The building, which will become the College of Universal Medicine Centre in Australia, is situated on six acres in a beautiful green valley 10 minutes from Goonellabah and 25 minutes from Byron/Ballina airport,” the website says.
Mr Benhayon said his critics were liars and “cyber-bullies”.
“In 1999 I began presenting on the energetic fact that most of our malaise resulted from our lifestyle choices, and that it was important, as hard as it is, to deal with our hurts and not press on as we are usually told,” he said. “Many clients have responded to these simple principles and are today enjoying the vibrancy and real joy and love in their lives.”
He refuted allegations that Universal Medicine was a cult-like organisation.
“Not a single person can be persuaded, coerced or brainwashed against their own will,” he said.
“Science is on my side here.
“People are much smarter and wiser than some will like to accept. I hold and treat all to the fact that they do know and, hence, are capable of their own decisions.
“I don’t look down at anyone, and especially not women.”
A statement from the Department of Fair Trading said they are “currently assessing the material recently submitted” and urged consumers who have concerns about their dealings with Universal Medicine or Serge Benhayon to contact them on 133 220 or lodge complaints online.
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