19 Jan 2011

RETRACTED: Natasha Lakaev's evidence 'deliberately untrue', says judge


NOTE FROM PERRY BULWER: I have removed two news article from this archive. The following news article explains why, for the first time since I started this archive, I removed those two articles. The other retracted article was on this page:

UPDATE NOVEMBER 3, 2018:  I removed the original articles by Michael Bachelard after I was informed about the defamation lawsuit. It was the only time I agreed to remove an article from this archive. Four years later I regretted doing so, after reading the 2014 article by Michael Bachelard, which I posted below. Now Natasha Lakaev is back in the news, and I've posted a new report in the comments below.


Natasha Lakaev's evidence 'deliberately untrue', says judge

by Michael Bachelard Sydney Morning Herald October 13, 2014

Four years ago I wrote a story in The Sunday Age about a brave young woman who had been trapped in a small, northern-NSW new-age cult for 12 years.

She'd lost that portion of her life, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars, both buying useless courses and in direct payments to the cult leader, Natasha Lakaev.

She'd been hit, dominated, humiliated, worked without pay for up to 22 hours a day and, when I spoke to her, was still frightened that the end of the world was nigh. She'd had her tubes tied because she believed what Lakaev had told her: that she was a "human f--k up" who could not properly look after her three children. She grieved over the daughter she'd never have.

But, unlike most victims of cults, this young woman - I will not name her because she has been through enough already - was courageous enough to want to tell all this to the world. She wanted to warn others about Lakaev, and to say out loud that she was no longer afraid of her.

I had written already about the Exclusive Brethren so had some knowledge of the subject, and wanted to help her do this. I also wanted to use her case to explain to my readers how cults recruit the young, the clever, the searching, and then proceed to grind them down.

In the research for the story, I found out that Lakaev was working as a registered psychologist for a Queensland government health centre on the Gold Coast, looking after patients she herself had described as vulnerable. I wrote about that, too.

I also found out she was litigious and had sued former cult members for allegedly writing about her on internet forums after she had legally forced a website to reveal the identities of its users. She had also sued A Current Affair for an earlier story. The result was that many adverse stories about her were not available.

She sent a warning letter to Google trying to have adverse mentions of her removed. She was adept, in other words, at cleansing her online image.

You cannot read my stories online any more either. Fairfax Media has removed them as part of a legal settlement with Lakaev reached in the early hours of Wednesday morning that ends the four-year defamation case she launched against Fairfax as well as News Limited - which wrote wrote a follow-up story to mine - me personally and two of the people quoted in the stories.

After four years of dragging this case through the courts, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses, Lakaev had her day in court this week. It was to argue to the Queensland Supreme Court for yet another delay, after she had failed properly to prepare for a four-week jury trial. It turns out that she'd made little real effort to do anything at all to prepare.

Her tactics, perhaps, were simply to delay so long, piling the emotional pressure on people she had already systematically victimised once, to wring a financial settlement out of Fairfax and the other defendants.

It did not work. In court, applying for the adjournment. The judge said that: "The plaintiff prevaricated, talked in circumlocutions, and otherwise tried to avoid anything that might do otherwise than bolster a case."

And again: "I found her evidence deliberately prevaricating and at times demonstrably untrue during the course of this adjournment application."

The judge refused the adjournment application and told Lakaev to be ready to conduct the trial by herself, starting next week. Confronted with the reality of running the case, Lakaev began negotiating to settle.

Settlement was reached on the basis that nothing of what my stories said, nor what my brave subject was willing and able to prove in court, was retracted.

Fairfax agreed to take down our articles to get the settlement done, but nothing says we cannot write another account of events. No money changed hands.

Judgment was entered against Lakaev and for the defendants. According to the law, Fairfax, the brave young woman and her former husband, our other co-defendants and I, won the case.

What do we make of all this?

Defamation law, in the hands of a highly determined and litigious individual, is a powerful deterrent to public-interest journalism. Fairfax and News Limited stood ready to prove every one of the things we wrote about Lakaev, but it took four expensive years even to get to the door of the court. Then, but for the good sense of the judge it might have taken 18 months more. We will receive nothing back from the investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent preparing our case. It is unlikely Lakaev could have met our costs, she was hoping she was the one who'd get the payout. Lesser organisations or individuals, once their research revealed how litigious she is, may have pulled back from publishing a story that was clearly in the public interest.

When we talk about the demise of well-funded commercial media, this is one of the potential casualties.

And, finally, to the American ballet school that Lakaev is suing: hang tough. She spends a lot of time shaping up to people through the courts, but under cross-examination she's not much of a witness.


What makes a cult?

What makes a religious group a cult?

Survivors in New Zealand documentary, How To Spot A Cult, reveal similar tactics used by cults with different belief systems

New Zealand research provides valuable insights on the psychological impact on children growing up in cult communes

Cult survivor reveals deceptive recruiting tactics used by Scientology and similar cults

Scientology Cult Front Group Holds Recruiting Event for NYC Children

Scientology's African evangelism targets children for indoctrination, opens new 'school' in Ghana

Muslim messianic cult leader, Harun Yahya, copied tactics from Moonies, Scientologists & other cults

Cults on campus: how to spot recruiting techniques of predator conmen

Jehovah's Witnesses abuse survivor and author educates public on tactics and dangers of cults

Cult Survivors: Was Membership Your Choice? [video]

Japanese universities taking steps to protect students from cults

Dahn Yoga cult leader enriched by deceptive, manipulative and abusive practices faces lawsuits by survivors
Dahn Yoga uses common cult recruitment tactic of targeting children for surreptitious indoctrination

Are Yoga 'franchises' cults disguised as big business preying on those vulnerable to exploitation and abuse?

Twelve Tribes cult recruits at Easter show

Maharishi Foundation threatens legal action against cult recovery therapist

Australian cult expert investigates the shadowy world of cults and counsels people who have left them

How Cults Rewire The Brain [video]

The Cult With No Name


  1. This article relied entirely on the fabricated and misleading newspaper article from the Sunday Age please click into the following link to view the conclusive court results and retraction of allegations against Ms Lakaev:


  2. I removed the original article by Michael Bachelard (RETRACTED above) after I was informed about the defamation lawsuit. It was the only time I agreed to remove an article from this archive. Four years later I regretted doing so, after reading the 2014 article by Michael Bachelard, which I posted above. Now Natasha Lakaev is back in the news, and I've posted new reports in the comments below.

  3. Autism psychologist once ran New Age cult



    A Queensland psychologist ­accused of once leading a New Age cult which promised paying clients the ability to “move between ­dimensions” has been working as an approved provider of a federal autism program since 2015.

    Natasha Lakaev — who ran courses through a program called Universal Knowledge from a Northern NSW property known as Omaroo in the early 2000s — once claimed to be a “metaphysician” who could heal HIV and other diseases and later retrained as a psychologist.

    Natasha Psychology, which Ms Lakaev runs on the Gold Coast, is listed as an approved provider for autism support under the federal Department of Social Services’ Helping Children with Autism package.

    “DSS has established a panel of early intervention service providers to deliver evidence-based services to eligible children as part of the HCWA package,” the website says.

    “This site provides a description of available interventions and fees associated with each therapy. The list is updated with new service providers as new applications to the panel are approved.”

    Ms Lakaev told The Weekend Australian she never ran a cult. “It was a business with shareholders ... in today’s terminology it would be a coping skills workshop,” she said.

    Asked whether she had said HIV could be cured with meditation, she said: “There is evidence for that now in the literature.”

    Some functions of the HCWA program are slowly being ­absorbed into the $22 billion ­National Disability Insurance Scheme but providers are still listed under the program because the department continues to fund services for those who do not yet have access to the scheme.

    Ms Lakaev said she had “provided services under the (HCWA) umbrella and, yes, I am registered as a clinical psychologist and I am working in that field successfully”.

    The psychologist said she had not tried to recruit new clients for Universal Knowledge.

    “People have asked me if I would ever go back to the original work we did,” she said.

    She also said: “Other lifetimes, past lifetimes are sometimes things people experience in meditation and they explore those things for themselves.”

    In a 2010 judgment in the ­Supreme Court of NSW, judge ­Elizabeth Fullerton said Ms Lakaev was “deliberately vague and evasive in her evidence in crucial respects and for those reasons not a witness upon whose evidence I am able to comfortably rely”.

    Ms Lakaev, listed on the website of Monash University as completing a PhD on the topic of student stress, promised participants of “the next evolutionary step” that they would develop telepathy and “multidimensionality”.

    A spokeswoman for the ­Department of Social Services said: “Psychologists are registered, accredited and regulated by the National Psychology Board of Australia, whose primary role is to protect the public.

    “The PBA is supported by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.

    “AHPRA is the appropriate body where complaints or concerns should be raised in the first instance.”


  4. Teacher in harmful cult gets NDIS funds



    A “behaviour specialist” who teaches in a “socially harmful cult” runs a clinic that ­receives taxpayer money through a federal autism program and the $22 billion National Disability ­Insurance Scheme.

    Just a day after Universal Medicine cult leader Serge Benhayon was found by the NSW ­Supreme Court to be the leader “of a group which to his knowledge makes false claims about healing that causes harm to ­others”, an instructor called Tanya Curtis appeared in a video defending his teachings.

    Mr Benhayon was also found by the jury to have an “indecent interest in young girls as young as 10 whom he causes to stay at his house unaccompanied”. During a defamation case against a former client, which he lost, the former bankrupt and one-time tennis coach told the jury he was the reincarnation of Leonardo da Vinci.

    Ms Curtis — a member of the Universal Medicine clinic in Brisbane — is the founder and sole ­director of Fabic Pty Ltd, which deals predominantly with children who have autism, ADHD and anxiety or depression.

    Fabic is an approved provider under the federal government’s Helping Children with Autism program, which subsidises early-intervention services. Fabic ­employs a speech pathologist, ­occupational therapist and psychologist.

    Fabic, based on the Gold Coast, is also a registered provider with the NDIS offering accommodation, employment, transport and household services.

    Almost anyone can register for the NDIS to provide household tasks without needing extensive checks or vetting.

    The Weekend Australian revealed another Gold Coast clinician, psychologist Natasha Lakaev, was the founder and ­instructor of the unrelated Universal Knowledge program and is also listed as an approved provider of services by the federal government.

    In the video posted on the Facebook page of Universal Medicine’s Brisbane branch, Uni­med Brisbane, Ms Curtis defends the teaching of “ageless wisdom” by Mr Ben­hayon. She explains “the ancient lineage of philosophical teachings from greats such as Imhotep, Buddha, Plato and now Serge Benhayon”. “After I had my first healing session I went and attended a course that was presented by Serge Benhayon on the ageless wisdom teachings, and the best way I could describe it was it felt like home,” she says in the video.

    Ms Curtis’s Fabic organisation sells a range of audio recordings, presentations and even children’s books. One item, a book of tips for parents with behaviourally challenged children, includes a quote by Mr Benhayon on the cover.

    She did not respond to questions about whether she used Universal Medicine theories or techniques in her taxpayer-funded work but Ms Curtis told The Australian she achieved results.

    “I am highly experienced and qualified in the area of working with any person, groups and ­organisations who are supporting behaviour change in one person and/or a group of people,” she said. “Our philosophy is based on seeing the strengths in every person and thus no person and/or their behaviours will ever be judged. Due to the quality and principles of the work that I offer at Fabic, I am often known as the ‘last resort person’, obtaining ­results with behaviour change in cases where other attempts have failed.”

    The NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission is ­assuming responsibility for registration of service providers under the scheme. “(The commission) has a range of ­actions it can take if it discovers that some … organisations or their key personnel are not suitable to be involved in the provision of supports or services to NDIS participants,” a spokeswoman said.