Cult leader named ‘Total Transcendence’ is arrested after police raid 24-acre compound where the former masseuse ‘drugged followers and spent long periods locked away with female acolytes’

A cult leader who doped his followers with mercury has been arrested after his sprawling 24-acre estate was raided by police.

Authorities on Friday searched a complex in Murcia, Spain, where former masseuse José Manuel Cánovas, 50, who calls herself Total Transcendence, lived with 10 of his followers.

The estate in the town of Albanilla contained temples, clandestine laboratories, bunkers and cave dwellings, as well as a 200 kg hoard of mercury.

This was used to make so-called ‘purified mercury’ – intended as a stimulating and vitalising elixir, which was taken by followers and sold online and through herbalists.

These “psychoactive substances hazardous to health” were used by the cult leader to “manipulate the will of his followers for economic and power purposes,” police said.

Several female followers had completely severed ties with their family and friends and spent long periods of time in silence with the leader in his home.

The moment Total Transcendence was arrested for his involvement with the bizarre cult

Police said he and his close followers lived together in caves at the site and made elixirs

Police raided the compound in Albanilla and arrested the sect leader for alleged crimes against public health

Police said he and his close acolytes lived in caves on site, where they made the elixir and “experienced symptoms caused by the neurotoxicity of mercury.”

Waste from production was simply flushed into the site’s septic tank – a practice that authorities called “highly toxic to the environment.”

His followers, who worked long hours, also made financial contributions to the sect – which was reportedly called the Mahasandhi Foundation.

On the now-defunct website, a page describing the membership process asked for monthly donations of up to €2,000 (£1,700).

When police stormed the compound on Friday, they also raided a warehouse controlled by the sect in the town of Lorquí.

At both locations, officers seized 90,000 euros in cash, as well as a revolver, 19 kg of marijuana, the mercury and several documents related to the chemical.

An earlier raid in the city of Abarán had already uncovered a cellar containing, among other things, 180 kg of mercury and cinnabar.

Police said the sect leader was being held for alleged crimes against public health, the environment, workers’ rights and moral integrity, as well as illicit intercourse.

Mercury is, as the label states, ‘highly toxic’ and left imitators with symptoms of neurotoxicity

Police were able to recover around £78,000 in cash found at the two locations on Friday

Waste from production was simply flushed into the site’s septic tank – a practice that authorities called “highly toxic to the environment.”

Cánovas is said to have founded his sect in Albanilla about fifteen years ago.

Spanish newspaper La Opinión de Murcia said the 50-year-old founded the Buddhist sect after returning from India.

It described how on his now-defunct YouTube channel he let a follower read his lips and speak for him so he could keep his vow of silence.

During his arrest, he communicated with police by writing on a blackboard.

He also planned to build the largest Buddha in Europe, the newspaper reported.