A judge in Los Angeles, California, has issued an arrest warrant for Bikram Choudhury, the founder of “hot” yoga who was ordered in 2016 to pay more than $7 million in a sexual harassment suit.
Choudhury has not paid the judgment. Authorities believe that he has hid his assets and left the country.
According to ABC station KABC-TV, the warrant allows authorities to arrest him if he returns to the U.S. or, possibly, in Mexico.
In January 2016, a jury determined that Choudhury had sexually harassed and then unfairly fired Minakshi “Miki” Jafa-Bodden, his onetime lawyer. He was ordered to pay nearly $6.5 million in punitive damages in addition to $924,000 in compensatory damages.
Jafa-Bodden was general counsel to Bikram’s Yoga College of India but was fired after refusing to cover up allegations that Bikram had raped and sexually assaulted a yoga student.
“I feel vindicated,” she told ABC News in 2016. “I’m elated.”
She convinced the jury that the 69-year-old guru had repeatedly sexually harassed her and subjected her to obscene comments about women.
She also claimed she was fired after she tried to investigate another woman’s sexual harassment and rape allegations against him. During the trial over Jafa-Bodden’s allegations, Bikram strongly denied sexually assaulting any women. He also denied to ABC News ever having any sexual contact with his students or followers.
Choudhury was one of the pioneers of yoga in the United States, setting up shop in Beverly Hills in the 1970s. His client list is a who’s who of the rich and famous. Now his yoga studios are franchised worldwide.
Bail was set at $8 million.