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Two daughters of Canadian billionaire Edgar Bronfman Sr. have been accused in a New York lawsuit of funnelling millions of dollars to a sex cult to finance efforts to dig up dirt on opponents of the organization, including federal judges.

The suit, which involves about 80 plaintiffs, including 43 Canadians, claims NXIVM could not have operated without the money provided by Sara and Clare Bronfman. Vancouver resident Sarah Edmondson, who has spoken out about allegations of misconduct by the cult, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, but dozens of other claimants are listed as John Doe and Jane Doe with a number attached to each.

“They became two of NXIVM’s biggest funders, reportedly giving as much as $150-million,” the statement of claim says of Sara and Clare.

It says the money was used for “bogus experiments" on NXIVM members and for hiring investigators to discredit people the organization considered “enemies,” including defectors, critics, former employees and consultants, as well as federal judges presiding over legal proceedings related to NXIVM.

The suit describes NXIVM as a “Ponzi scheme and a coercive community” that exerted power over the plaintiffs, took their money, made it difficult to leave and emotionally and physically abused the plaintiffs.

“In doing so, the defendants achieved a number of personal benefits including, but not limited to, enriching themselves, wielding power over others, advancing in the perverse social order they created and enhancing their own feelings of self-esteem,” says the 189-page statement of claim in the case filed Jan. 28 in United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

The allegations outlined in the court documents have not been tested in court. Lawyer Mark Geragos, who has represented Clare, did not reply to a request for comment on the lawsuit.

NXIVM was based near Albany, N.Y., and had a chapter in Vancouver.

Some female adherents were branded with the initials of the organization’s founder Keith Raniere, ordered to have sex with him, kept on starvation diets and otherwise abused, the lawsuit states.

In 2019, Clare pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to conceal and harbour illegal aliens for financial gain, and fraudulent use of identification. Sara has not been charged criminally in the case.

Mr. Raniere, 59, of New York has been found guilty in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., of various charges, including racketeering, conspiracy, sex trafficking and other crimes, and faces a possible life sentence.

Prosecutors in Mr. Raniere’s case noted that he created a society within NXIVM called DOS in which female “slaves” turned over compromising materials, such as nude photos, that could be used for blackmail.

The claim says Clare, Mr. Raniere and other co conspirators “directed and participated in a decades-long pattern of vexatious, ruinous and meritless abuse of the civil and criminal justice system in order to harass, intimidate, silence, retaliate against and destroy the lives of witnesses and persons critical of NXIVM and Raniere.

“Clare Bronfman and her sister and co-defendant, Sara Bronfman, expended millions of dollars to finance these abuses,” says the statement of claim.

Plaintiffs have “suffered in silence for years,” but only now feel safe to come forward and assert their claims given guilty pleas and criminal convictions of various people, says the claim.

Clare was responsible for overseeing NXIVM legal matters and “took advantage of many members of the NXIVM community by misrepresenting the law to them in order to induce them to act or refrain from acting in accordance with her desires and those of her co-defendants.”

With her involvement, says the suit, NXIVM hired 50 to 60 lawyers from about 30 law firms to pursue litigation or threats of litigation against actual or perceived potential NXIVM critics, says the statement of claim.

Allison Mack, a TV actor featured in the made-in-B.C. TV series Smallville, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Ms. Mack is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to racketeering linked to NXIVM.

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