Whiskey heiress admits funding ‘sex-trafficking’ cult
Guilty plea by heir to the Seagram fortune leaves Nxivm cult leader Keith Raniere as lone defendant in the case
An American whiskey heiress has pleaded guilty to her role in the secretive “sex cult” Nxivm that allegedly trafficked women.
Clare Bronfman, the 40-year-old heir to the Seagram alcohol fortune, was accused of using her wealth to fund the suspected sex cult to the tune of more than $100m (R1.4bn). She had been due to stand trial on May 7, but on Friday pleaded guilty to two counts: conspiracy to conceal and harbour illegal immigrants for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification.
Keith Raniere, the suspected cult leader, now stands alone as a defendant in the case on charges of sex trafficking and forced labour conspiracy. The 58-year-old who founded Nxivm, which offered “executive success programmes” and self-help therapies, wielded immense power over the estimated 16,000 people who flocked to his seminars. Initiation rites allegedly included the branding of its members with the founder’s initials.
He was arrested in Mexico in 2018 and is accused of creating a secret society called “DOS”, comprising more than a dozen women “slaves” and “masters”, with him, the sole man, at the top. He has denied the charges and insisted the alleged sexual relationships with women were consensual.Bronfman will be sentenced on July 25. She could face up to 25 years in prison but the government’s sentencing guidelines suggest she will serve up to just 27 months.
The philanthropist and former equestrian showjumper is the daughter of Edgar Bronfman, the late Canadian chairman of liquor giant Seagram whose net worth was estimated at £2bn. She was a member of Nxivm’s executive board and is said to have used her wealth to finance court summonses against presumed enemies, fake identities to access data, and to help Raniere use the credit card of a deceased ex-mistress.
Bronfman was the fifth person to plead guilty in the case. Earlier this month, Allison Mack, an actress in Smallville, pleaded guilty to racketeering and conspiracy for allegedly recruiting women to the purported mentorship group, whom US prosecutors say were forced to have sex with its leader.
Lauren Salzman, the daughter of a Nxivm co-founder, and Kathy Russell, the group’s bookkeeper, have also pleaded guilty over their roles in the group.
– © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)