Sao Paulo (AFP) – Famed Brazilian “spiritual healer” Joao de Deus, accused of sexually abusing hundreds of women under the pretext of treating them, surrendered to authorities on Sunday, Brazilian media reported.
An arrest warrant was issued Friday for the 76-year-old medium, whose real name is Joao Teixeira de Faria but who is widely known as “John of God.”
For years, he had received thousands of believers each week — including numerous celebrities — at his temple in the town of Abadiania, in Goias state, near the capital Brasilia.
A cell-phone video filmed by a journalist and broadcast on the Globo news channel shows a weary-looking, downcast Faria stepping out of a car on an unpaved road before surrendering to waiting police.
Several television stations then broadcast live scenes of his arrival in a police cruiser with tinted windows at police headquarters in Goiania, the capital of Goias.
– ‘Divine’ and ‘earthly justice’ –
In the video, Faria is heard saying that when he learned of the accusations against him, “I surrendered to divine justice and, as promised, I now place myself in the hands of earthly justice.”
His lawyer Alberto Toron told reporters he would seek Faria’s release on Monday and hoped he could be assigned to house arrest.
Faria has insisted on his innocence.
But on Wednesday, according to O Globo newspaper, he withdrew 35 million reais ($8.9 million) from several bank accounts.
That suspiciously large withdrawal prompted authorities to issue the arrest warrant Friday to prevent Faria from fleeing the country or hiding the money, news media reported.
The scandal erupted after TV Globo, Brazil’s largest television network, broadcast an investigative report on Faria, including testimony from women who said he had forced them, during the “healing” seances, to masturbate him or practice fellatio on him.
Following the broadcast, hundreds of women came forward with similar complaints.
The prosecutor’s office in Goias said it had received 330 complaints from all parts of Brazil, as well as from Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Germany, Switzerland and the United States.
Faria’s reputation reached far beyond Brazil. American TV superstar Oprah Winfrey visited him in 2012, and the last three Brazilian presidents had consulted with him.