US judge issues arrest warrant for founder of Bikram yoga, sets $8 million bail

The 70-year-old Chodhury, founder of the Bikram yoga empire, is embroiled in a sexual harassment case. Originally from India, Choudhury is said to have made a fortune after he moved to California.

world Updated: May 25, 2017 09:42 IST
Agence France-Presse
Bikram Choudhury,California,Yoga guru
People walking past the headquarters of Bikram Yoga in Los Angeles, California on April 1, 2015. (AFP File Photo)

A California judge on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for the yoga guru Bikram Choudhury after he failed to pay nearly $6.5 million to a former legal adviser in a sexual harassment case.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Edward Moreton also set bail at $8 million for the founder of the Bikram yoga empire, which involves practising yoga in sweltering rooms.

Choudhury was sued in 2013 by his onetime legal adviser Minakshi “Mikki” Jafa-Bodden, who accused him of sexual harassment, saying he fired her after she refused to help him cover up allegations that he raped a yoga student.

Ordered to pay $6.47 million in punitive damages in January of last year, he fled California shortly after the verdict, Jafa-Bodden’s attorney, Carla Minnard, told AFP.

The guru -- who had no attorney representing him in court Wednesday -- first travelled to India and then Thailand and Japan before heading to Mexico, where he was served court papers in May, Minnard said.

“He is currently in Acapulco conducting teacher training classes,” she said. “Our intent is to have him arrested before he leaves Mexico.”

The 70-year-old Choudhury had managed to move some of his assets, including a fleet of luxury cars, to Nevada and Florida, but court orders were issued to prevent him moving property out of the country, Minnard said.

“We will keep pursuing him however long it takes, wherever it takes,” she said. “I don’t care where he goes, how much money it costs us, how many lawsuits we have to file, how many hundreds of hours we have to spend -- we are going to collect on this judgment and see that Mikki gets justice.”

Originally from India, Choudhury is said to have made a fortune after he moved to California.

He claimed during his trial that he was nearly bankrupt after spending millions of dollars in legal fees and because his business was no longer thriving.

His yoga routine involves 26 posture exercises performed over 90 minutes in a room heated to 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius.)

First Published: May 25, 2017 09:41 IST