If you’ve ever done hot yoga, you’ve probably heard at least in passing of Bikram Choudhury, founder of the international Bikram yoga empire. While more than 650 studios worldwide teach his technique, Choudhury himself is on the lam, teaching in Mexico while a judge in California has issued a warrant for his arrest.
Choudhury is no stranger to the law. In 2013, the Los Angeles district attorney ultimately declined to bring charges against Choudhury over sexual assault allegation because it didn’t have enough evidence or eyewitnesses to bring a prosecutable case. However, by Feb. 2015, six different women had filed lawsuits claiming Choudhury raped, assaulted, or groped them.
In Jan. 2016, one lawsuit ended with a jury ordering Choudhury to pay out $7.4 million to one of those women — the former head of legal and international affairs at his Los Angeles school, who said that not only had he harassed her and touched her inappropriately, but also that he had fired her suddenly when she refused to cover up an investigation into a rape claim.
The jury said she was owed $924,000 in compensation, as well as $6.5 million in punitive damages. Choudhury, however, has not made good.
So, the AP reports, a Los Angeles judge has issued a warrant for his arrest — and set his bail at $8 million.
No lawyers for Choudhury came to the hearing, the AP says. However, lawyers for the victim did.
As the ABC affiliate in Los Angeles reports, despite Choudhury’s claim that he’s basically broke, her legal team has been able to track at least 43 luxury vehicles and “other property” belonging to Choudhury.
He’s been busily moving the cars out of state despite a court order not to do so, the lawyers say, and they also have court orders in Nevada and Florida preventing him from shipping property out of warehouses in those states.
KABC also adds that a process server tracked Choudhury to Thailand, “where he reacted angrily.” He has evidently since returned to North America, and is teaching in Acapulco, Mexico.
Choudhury has a history of reacting poorly to rape and assault allegations, as when he sat for an interview with noted sports journalist Andrea Kremer for an episode of HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel that aired in Oct. 2016.
The full episode is only available through HBO or its streaming service, but you can see a clip of Andrea Kremer’s interview with Choudhury here:
In the clip, Kremer asks Choudhury about several sexual assault claims that had been made against him, naming some women and then, then saying of them, “They felt sexually violated by you.”
You’d expect almost any interview subject to deny or downplay the claims — but even so, Choudhury’s response is extraordinary.
“Lie, lie, and lie,” he replies. “I don’t need to do that. If I need women, I can make a line. The most beautiful, famous, rich women in the world, if I have to sleep with women,” he adds, before claiming 5,000 women per day want to sleep with him and four different women have committed suicide because he turned down their offers of sex.
“You and that idiot are dumb to believe this trash,” Choudhury then tells Kremer.
“The women are trash?” Kremer asks.
“Yeah,” Chounhury replies vehemently. “I pick them from trash and give them life.”
The rest of the segment did not paint Choudhury in a better light either, the Huffington Post reported in October. Several different women said in detail how they felt that Choudhury’s celebrity, power, wealth, and ego put him in a position to take advantage of them. One described the details of her rape in detail to Kremer.
When Kremer asked Choundhury directly about one woman’s charges, he replied, “Of course not. I would never even piss on her face … she’s a psychopath,” before he ended the interview abruptly by telling Kremer, “You are nothing but piece of s**t psychopaths. Go home. This is over.”
According to KABC, three rape and assault lawsuits against him have been settled, and three more are pending.