A cult leader in regional NSW is accused of subjecting a woman to physical, sexual and psychological abuse on a daily basis for years.
The 40-year-old former Australian Defence Force member was arrested in Armidale last Thursday.
Police say the man manipulated the woman in Sydney between 2012 and 2015 as part of a cult.
The woman “was coerced, manipulated and threatened to be involved in a bondage lifestyle where there was alleged coercion and control”, Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough told reporters on Tuesday.
The woman was held in “slave-like conditions”, with a slavery contract, a slave collar and a slave tattoo, Ms Gough said.
He threatened to kill her if she escaped.
The man later moved to the outskirts of Armidale, where he was living with six women until his arrest.
He considers himself to be the patriarch of a group called “House of Cadifor”.
The women had signed slavery contracts and were in the “possession” of the man, police say.
Police hope that other victims will come forward, but declined to say where the six women are now.
After the man’s arrest, 50 officers searched his property for 15 hours.
They seized a large volume of material – including documents, phones, cameras and computers – from the man’s property.
The arrest comes after the ABC’s Four Corners program reported on the cult on Monday.
Despite the man posting about his activities on social media, it was the media investigation which gave police the detail they needed to lay charges, Ms Gough said.
The man’s charges include reducing a person to slavery, intentionally possessing a slave, and causing a person to enter servitude. The maximum penalties are between 15 and 25 years in prison.
Ms Gough warned that human trafficking occurs in plain sight.
She urged community members to report anything that seems unusual, given that victims are often too scared to come forward.
“Their movements are restricted, their financial affairs are controlled, identity documents are withheld and their identity is significantly destroyed,” she said.
“It’s a desperate and difficult situation.”
For every one human trafficking victim who is detected, there are up to four undetected cases in Australia.
The man will appear before Armidale Local Court on Wednesday, after being formally refused bail in the same court on Friday.
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