Cancer patient Judith McIntyre gave Universal Medicine leader Serge Benhayon $1.4 million. (Supplied)
A “cult” leader who received $1.4 million from a dying devotee coached her on how to restrict her children’s share of her fortune, warning that they represented an “attack” on the divine purpose of his work.
- Breast cancer victim Judith McIntyre gave $1.4 million to Universal Medicine leader before she died
- Emails show the “cult’s” leader advised her on her will, her diet, and dealings with her family
- A NSW jury found last month that he “swindles cancer patients”
The ABC can reveal private exchanges between Universal Medicine (UM) founder Serge Benhayon and follower Judith McIntyre, which cast further light on what a jury has found was exploitation by the leader of a “socially harmful cult” who “preys on cancer patients”.
The emails detail the influential role the millionaire and self-proclaimed spiritual healer played in Ms McIntyre’s final months, arranging legal advice and advising her on everything from her will to her diet and dealings with her family.
Two months before she died of breast cancer, in 2014, Mr Benhayon told her that her children were “trying to destabilise you, trying to evoke your sympathy”, which was “an attack on the funds that will help The Hierarchy’s work on Earth”.
After she gave him $800,000 to build a teaching hall near Lismore, Mr Benhayon warned her against publicly revealing donations to Universal Medicine, because evil spirits known as “the Dark Lodge” could “cause serious harm” to donors.
He said it was “an unfortunate situation as we all deserve to be named for our contributions … no ifs or buts on this one as it is too serious to tamper with”.
Emails made public for first time
The emails, supplied to the ABC by Ms McIntyre’s daughter Sarah, have not been made public until now.
Ms McIntyre’s children tried to use them in an unsuccessful court challenge to her will in 2015, but they were ruled inadmissible.
The judge found they were “obtained (at the very least) improperly” because Sarah McIntyre accessed her mother’s account after she died, using her password.
Ms McIntyre said she received legal advice that it would be too hard to prove Mr Benhayon used “undue influence” to inherit most of their mother’s estate.
Serge Benhayon, who has no medical qualifications, has followers around the world. (Facebook: Serge Benhayon)
But last month, a New South Wales Supreme Court jury found exactly that, ruling on an unrelated defamation claim by Mr Benhayon against a blogger.
The jury’s 38 findings also included that he “swindles cancer patients” and “exploits cancer patients by targeting them to leave him bequests”.
His emails to Ms McIntyre were not put before the jury.
Sarah McIntyre told the ABC she did not know her mother gave Mr Benhayon $800,000 before her death until she read the emails.
“I learned this was part of a strategy to make the estate look smaller and the case for challenging the will weaker,” she said.
“I was really shocked about the level of planning and thought that had gone into how to distribute my mother’s estate before she died.”
Sarah McIntyre said lawyers advised that prospects of challenging the will were better if she argued “inadequate family provision”.
But the emails show that two days after her last visit with her mother, a lawyer involved in Universal Medicine gave advice at Judith McIntyre’s request, on how her will could withstand such a legal challenge.
“It would seem that the provision you made in your will for $250,000 each would therefore most likely to [sic] be found to be adequate,” the lawyer said.
Another email from the lawyer indicated that “Serge will arrange” another UM follower to witness her will.
Judith McIntyre earlier asked Mr Benhayon to contact a barrister involved in UM to arrange a “legal form” for her children to sign agreeing “not to challenge the will”.
“We will have it ready for when they are up visiting you,” Mr Benhayon replied.
Universal Medicine filmed a YouTube interview with Ms McIntyre four weeks before she died. (ABC News)
Ms McIntyre also raised concerns that her son’s request for an early share of his inheritance for legal bills could ultimately “reduce the amount to Uni Med” or mean he got less for housing.
“Neither of these feels right,” she said, adding it could be “be more fuel for objections to the will”.
Mr Benhayon replied: “Now you can see how the astral is trying to play with your money, how [your son] has little reality for the worth of money and how life really works [and] how the law firm is milking him as I said it would.”
After an “awesome” visit from Mr Benhayon, Ms McIntyre discussed plans for her will involving UM, saying: “Unless you say otherwise, I assume this is best for now.”
Mr Benhayon driven by ‘hunger for adulation’
The NSW Supreme Court in September heard that another follower who died in 2010 left Mr Benhayon her share of a house co-owned by her partner.
The court heard Mr Benhayon taught followers their “kidney energy” could be harmed in their next life if their children misspent their inheritance.
A 2016 tax return filed in court shows Mr Benhayon’s family trust reported more than $2 million in business income from UM, and a profit of $891,000.
Property searches by the ABC show Mr Benhayon and his family have bought or sold 23 properties worth $11.4 million since he founded Universal Medicine, many of them owned jointly with followers.
UM boasts 700 followers, including doctors, academics and lawyers.
Cult expert David Millikan, who has spent time with Mr Benhayon and was a witness for the blogger in the defamation case, said he was driven more by his “hunger for adulation” than for money.
“It is an almost desperation for the world to realise who he is — he believes he holds within his grasp the salvation of the world,” he told the ABC.
The Uniting Church minister said it was a myth that cult members were “weak or easily led people in some sort of crisis”.
He said they tended to be “strong, university-educated and middle-class” and “driven by this wonderful sense that they are a vanguard … spiritual warriors”.
But he said, they could succumb to “a type of intellectual enslavement”.
“[Mr Benhayon] knows what they should read, what they should wear, what they should eat, how they should exercise, what sort of sexual life they should have and so they end up in this closed world.”
Mr Benhayon did not respond for comment.