A famous Brazilian “spiritual healer” jailed after accusations he sexually abused hundreds of female followers is facing a growing pile of other accusations related to arms possession and mass-produced “remedies.”
Joao Teixeira de Faria, 76, better known as “Joao de Deus” or “John of God,” was arrested December 16 after women came forward in Brazilian media and to police to allege he sexually forced himself on them on pretext of “curing” them of ailments.
The faith healer — made world-famous by US TV celebrity Oprah Winfrey in a show broadcast in 2013 — denies the accusations.
Nearly 600 complaints were sent to police this month. But many have had to be excluded from the criminal investigation because the acts they alleged happened so many years ago the statute of limitations had lapsed.
Prosecutors in Goias state handling the case told reporters that 255 women had been identified as potential victims whose allegations were being taken into account. Their ages ranged between 9 and 67 at the time they said they were abused.
Police conducted raids on properties linked to Faria and found handguns, gemstones and — hidden behind a false panel in a wardrobe — a suitcase containing the equivalent of $300,000 in cash.
Just before his arrest, transactions amounting to $9 million were detected in Faria’s accounts.
– ‘Criminal organization’ –
The discovery of the weapons prompted a judge on Friday to order additional charges against Faria, saying the investigation suggested the faith healer could be “heading a criminal organization,” according to the G1 news website.
Faria’s lawyer protested that the judge “made a serious affirmation without any empirical basis.” He also contested the legality of the searches.
Health authorities in Goias state, where Faria’s “spiritual hospital” is located in the small town of Abadiania, near the capital Brasilia, on the weekend shut down the pharmacy in the healer’s center.
It said the laboratory was mass-producing “remedies” without the necessary permit.
According to Abadiania’s mayor, up to 10,000 visitors came to the town each month to see Faria, with around 40 percent of them foreigners.
Many of them took “prescriptions” scribbled by Faria to buy remedies that included “spiritually charged” mineral water and pills made from a local flower.
Shopowners and locals in the town, population 15,000, fear the arrest of Faria and the accusations could scare away visitors, putting an end to their livelihood.