Behind the Bivolaru Case. 4. GéPS Versus MISA

How Gascan and his friends framed Gregorian Bivolaru looks like a fairy tale. But behind any fairy tale lies a truth.

by Massimo Introvigne

Article 4 of 4. Read article 1article 2, and article 3.

Gregorian Bivolaru Gregorian Bivolaru.

I study fairy tales and their influence on Western esotericism and both romantic and modern art. However, fairy tales have a symbolic truth, which should not be confused with factual truth.

After he was put on the Interpol most wanted list by the Finnish authorities in October 2017, Bivolaru became a fugitive and the police of several countries were hunting him. That a small private anti-cult group, Hugues Gascan’s GéPS discussed in previous articles of this series, found and framed him, succeeding where Interpol had failed, belongs to the category of fairy tales.

According to Gascan, the methodology he and his “group of friends” used was very simple. They contacted non-French women who were telling the cloak-and-dagger story of how they were brainwashed in their countries where they attended MISA courses, invited to go to Paris, received and blindfolded by drivers in Paris, and taken to locations in France where they were compelled to have sex with Bivolaru. While readers of French media are led to believe that this was the result of a Sherlock-Holmes-like work by GéPS, these stories had been known for years. The late Swedish scholar Liselotte Frisk encountered them—and found them hard to believe—when she investigated the Finnish case in 2018. Some of the women who told these stories spread them through the Internet, wrote books, and were involved in civil cases with Bivolaru’s organization. I discussed their narratives in my own 2022 book about MISA. There was nothing new about them, except the claim that on November 28, 2023 several women were held captive in France to be abused by Bivolaru—a story as far as I know none of the women reportedly “liberated” by the police has confirmed so far.

Clearly, the French and other police officers as well had read the sensational accounts of the women who claimed they had been “brainwashed” and taken to France to be abused. The raids of November 2023 have a flavor of intelligence services all over them, and why somebody regarded as necessary to emphasize the “private investigation” of GéPS is an interesting question.

It is not difficult to understand why one may want to found new anti-cult organizations in France, where several of these groups already exist. Without excluding ideological motivations, as mentioned in a previous article of this series, the French governmental anti-cult agency MIVILUDES generously distributes taxpayers’ money to these groups.

But why should the MIVILUDES focus on MISA, a group that has very few French members? In 2016, it needed to support the government’s willingness to extradite Bivolaru, arrested in France, to Romania, against the objections of another European Union country, Sweden, which had granted him political asylum after its Supreme Court had declared the Romanian prosecution biased and fabricated. But why did the MIVILUDES continue to target MISA after the 2016 extradition?

Bivolaru at the International Yogi Spring Camp, Herculane, Romania, 1994. Bivolaru at the International Yogi Spring Camp, Herculane, Romania, 1994.

I can suggest two different answers. One is that, while scholarly studies, included by the late American sociologist Anson D. Shupe, have concluded that sexual abuse is statistically more prevalent (in percentage, not in absolute numbers only) in traditional mainline religions than in new religious movements, it is in the interest of the MIVILUDES to claim that sexual crimes are typical of “cults.”

The second is that for several years the MIVILUDES has been campaigning for a new version of the French anti-cult 2001 About-Picard law. While it has been used against several small groups, and it will no doubt be invoked against Bivolaru, the About-Picard law has consistently failed against the groups its proponents indicated in 2001 as its main targets, including Scientology and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. In 2001, criminalizing “brainwashing” under the name of “mental manipulation” proved impossible for constitutional reasons and the law ended up punishing the “abuse of weakness” (abus de faiblesse). This was also a version of “brainwashing” but enforcing the provision required to prove that the “victim” was in a situation of “weakness” and had been led by the “cult” to damage herself. 

The anti-cult organizations and the MIVILUDES have tried for years to introduce a broader criminalization of brainwashing under the name of “mental subjection,” which became Article 1 of a law proposal introduced in 2023 by the government.

The draft law has met with opposition both in France and abroad, including by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. At the time of this writing, it is unclear whether the government will be able to gather enough parliamentary support to pass its Article 1 on “mental subjection.”

Perhaps in cooperation and perhaps in competition with the GéPS, it seems that other Sherlock Holmeses were at work against MISA in France. In December 2023 the magazine “Marianne,” another staunch proponent of secular humanism, revealed that, “In 2021, our editorial staff gathered information on Bivolaru’s activities in France, which we did not publish to avoid causing his escape. Nevertheless, it took the police two years to dismantle the network. Why such a long delay? Neither the Ministry of the Interior nor the Paris Public Prosecutor’s Office responded to our requests to explain it.”

“Marianne” protests the “arrests that came too late.” “Marianne” protests the “arrests that came too late.”

The question made sense. If the police was keeping Bivolaru under surveillance from months, if not years, and believed he was abusing female followers in France why didn’t it intervene before, thus preventing the women from being abused? One does not need to be an adept of conspiracy theories to suspect that the Bivolaru case was a bomb timed to explode a few days before the parliamentary discussion of the new anti-cult law started. Just as the parliamentarians were about to decide whether to make cracking down on “cults” accusing them of “brainwashing” easier, a “cult” accused of kidnapping and raping women landed on the first pages of most French media. Only a true believer in coincidences would accept that this happened by chance.

Some of our readers may object that all this is interesting but not decisive and that, irrespective of any other consideration, if the French police liberated women held captive and about to be raped it should be applauded, while Bivolaru as a rapist and his accomplices should be sentenced to severe jail penalties. I agree with these readers. If Bivolaru is guilty of the serious crimes he is accused of, he should be prosecuted, tried, and sentenced. “If” is the operative word here.

Were the women “liberated” held captive in France or had they decided to participate in experiences including an “alternative” approach to eroticism out of their fee will? This is the question the trial should answer. If women were physically kidnapped, imprisoned, and raped, those responsible should surely serve long terms in prison. As opposite to this, I disagree with any argument that women and men persuaded that they have freely chosen an alternative approach to eroticism are by definition not free and their choice can only be explained by the fact that they have been “brainwashed” by a “cult.” To put it simply, I do not believe “cultic brainwashing” exists.