“Guru to the stars” Bikram Choudhury has been forced to turn over his entire vintage car collection and all of his franchises to his former legal adviser, who alleged in a lawsuit that the Indian American ‘Hot Yoga’ founder sexually harassed her.
In December, Los Angeles, Calif., Superior Court Judge Mark Borenstein placed a lien on all 43 cars in Choudhury’s collection, ordering that none of them could be removed from the state. According to court documents made available to India-West, the collection – on which a valuation could not be determined – includes eight Bentleys, 11 Rolls Royces, five Mercedes Benzes, two Jaguars, and three Ferraris amongst other vehicles.
The whereabouts of the valuable cars are unknown. According to court documents, Choudhury’s driver, Kaylan “Sando” Panday, ordered some of the vehicles to be loaded onto a car carrier and transported out of the garage they were housed in.
Borenstein’s order prohibits area seaports or anyone in possession of the vehicles from transporting the cars.
Panday has missed court dates requiring him to testify about the location of the vehicles. He is expected to appear in court later this month.
Choudhury has also been ordered to hand over his 224 global franchises, most of which are now shuttered. The famed instructor – who has worked with many of Hollywood’s A-listers – has reportedly permanently left the U.S. and set up a teacher training center in Aamby Valley City, about 12 miles from the Lonavala hill station in Maharashtra.
In January 2016, Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, who worked as head of legal and international affairs at Choudhury's Los Angeles yoga school from spring 2011 until March 2013, won a $7 million lawsuit against Choudhury. Jafa-Bodden alleged in her lawsuit that she was wrongly terminated by Choudhury when she refused to participate in a cover-up for a rape allegation by one of his students.
Moreover, Jafa-Bodden alleged that she too was sexually harassed by Choudhury, who – according to her lawsuit – touched her inappropriately and forced her to stay in a hotel suite with him.
Choudhury further alleged in her lawsuit that after she was wrongfully terminated by her employer, she faced deportation when Choudhury withdrew her work visa, and struggled financially as a single mother.
The legal adviser is seeking her former employer’s cars, plus a diamond-encrusted watch to pay for the $7 million win. Choudhury has claimed that the cars do not belong to him.
Six other women – all former students of Choudhury’s teacher training program –filed suit against the yoga practitioner, alleging that he inappropriately touched them, asked for sexual favors, or forced sex on them.
Choudhury has denied all allegations. “They are lies. Lies. Lies. If I wanted to sleep with women, there would be a line outside,” he told HBO reporter Andrea Kremer, in a story which aired last October. (See earlier India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2i1h1dB.)
Kremer told India-West that she and her producer Maggie Burbank had interviewed 30 women who all allegedly had similar stories of being sexually harassed by Choudhury, while taking his $12,000 teacher training course.
In an interview with “The Daily Mail on Sunday,” Jafa-Bodden claimed she now helmed the yoga empire Choudhury created. “Bikram is no longer the boss of Bikram Yoga. I am. I've been to hell and back, but the jury has spoken. Bikram has tried to conceal assets and has fled America, but justice will be done,” she told the U.K.-based newspaper.
“He is a cold, calculating predator. I witnessed him routinely abusing that power, often with the most vulnerable students,” she said, adding: “These were young women who looked up to him as a spiritual guru. They loved him. And he took advantage of that in the most heinous way imaginable.”
Sarah Baughn, a former student of Choudhury who filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2013, said in her lawsuit that the guru told her: “I need someone to love me and spend time with me. I am so lonely. I am dying. I can feel myself dying. I will not be alive if someone doesn’t save me. My body is breaking down. I am always hurting. I need someone to take care of me so I don’t die.”
Phone calls placed to Choudhury’s Beverly Hills, Calif., home had not been returned by press time. Phone calls to several of his yoga studios in Southern California also went unanswered.
Choudhury’s wife, Rajashree Choudhury, filed for divorce last year and now conducts yoga workshops for pregnant women.