MONTREAL (JTA) — Search warrants unsealed in Quebec allege that the haredi Orthodox sect Lev Tahor trafficked in human cargo and committed other abuses.
The documents also reveal that Interpol and Israel helped build the criminal case against the group before its 250 members fled to Guatemala in March with leader Rabbi Shlomo Helbrans.
The list of charges in the warrant issued in January include detailed allegations by former Lev Tahor members — including Helbrans’ own brother Nathan — of physical force, use of psychotropic drugs, forced marriage of juveniles and sexual assault, according to Canadian reports.
Helbrans founded Lev Tahor in Israel in the late 1980s and ran it both there and in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he was convicted of kidnapping, and then for a decade near Montreal.
Canada granted him asylum in 2003 based on his claimed fear of being persecuted if sent back to Israel.
In November, the group fled Quebec for the adjacent province of Ontario, and four months later for Guatemala in the wake of the ongoing investigation by youth protection officials and other authorities.
This month, Lev Tahor left the village of San Juan la Laguna amid reports of rising tensions with locals for the Guatemala City capital.
The remaining 30 Lev Tahor members who had remained in Canada also reportedly left Ontario for Guatemala this month to reunite with the rest of the sect.