By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The defense team for Brazilian spiritual healer, João de Deus, is seeking that the famous medium be transferred to house arrest, due to his age (76) and state of health. The healer is accused of sexual abuse of at least five hundred women and withdrawing R$35 million from his accounts.
“He is depressed, prison is prison. We cannot forget that we are talking about a 76-year-old man with diseases and difficulties. John slept on a thin mattress on the floor,” his lawyer Alberto Toron was quoted as saying in news site G1.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the State of Goiás confirmed that João Teixeira de Faria, better known as João de Deus (John of God), withdrew R$35 million from his accounts and funds after the first allegations of sexual abuse.
“What’s wrong with someone moving your account? Is there a block on his assets?” argues one of the healer’s lawyer.
The accusations against João de Deus began to appear on local media on December 7th, and since then hundreds of women claiming to be victims of the medium have come forward.
The accusations have been coming from all over the country and also from abroad. A special task force was set up and a channel for women to report possible abuse was created. So far there are reports of abuse from women from six countries: Germany, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, the United States and Switzerland.
Known for having greeted and ‘healed’ national and international celebrities, the spiritual leader has been working for more than 40 years in Abadiânia, in the interior of Goiás.
The accusations and arrest of João de Deus has altered the routine at Casa Dom Inácio de Loyola, the center where the medium met his followers, as well as the small city of Abadiânia. Owners of the city’s inns, shops, hotels, restaurants, who live from religious tourism, have reported a steep decline in customers.
“The flow today is the same as yesterday, much weaker than in normal periods” said one of Casa Dom Inacio de Loyola’s managers, Francisco Lobo told local news media last week. According to local officials the House receives up to 20,000 visitors per month.