Find me the yoga guru's Ferraris: British woman wins control of yogi Bikram's empire and 43 luxury cars after sex case... but they've vanished

Daily Mail, UK/January 1, 2017

By Caroline Graham

 He made his name and a £60 million fortune from superheated yoga in which devotees, including celebrities such as David Beckham, Lady Gaga and Madonna, sweat through exercise routines in 105F heat.

But The Mail on Sunday has established that Bikram Choudhury, the charismatic 'yogi to the stars', has been stripped of his worldwide empire by a Los Angeles court – the latest twist in a £6.4 million sex harassment case brought by Oxford-educated lawyer Minakshi Jafa-Bodden, a former employee.

As well as being awarded the 700 franchised Bikram Yoga studios around the globe, Miss Jafa-Bodden will also receive Choudhury's multi-million-pound fleet of 43 cars, which includes 13 Rolls-Royces, eight Bentleys and three Ferraris.

That's if she can find them. Last week, as letters went out to the Bikram Yoga franchises worldwide telling them of the change at the top, Choudhury's garage manager was summoned to the Los Angeles Superior Court, to explain where the cars are – and why they have been removed from a vehicle compound in violation of court orders.

Last night, Miss Jafa-Bodden, 47, who left her career in international litigation with a London City law firm to take what she thought would be her dream job as the head of Bikram Yoga's legal team, told The Mail on Sunday: '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.'

The demise of Choudhury – who developed his signature 90-minute workouts after arriving in California in the 1970s – is as extraordinary as his rise to fame.

Raised on the streets of Calcutta, he became a self-made tycoon thanks to an innovative new yoga style that offered lithe bodies and spiritual enlightenment in equal measure to its participants.

His business model was simple: he charged students about £13,500 to train as Bikram Yoga teachers and rolled out licensed franchises around the world, charging handsome fees for the benefit of using his name.

But as his fame and wealth increased, Choudhury began to behave, according to Miss Jafa-Bodden, like a man 'drunk on power', making lewd pronouncements, including boasts that he had 5,000 women 'begging' to sleep with him and that a single drop of his sperm 'is worth a million dollars'.

Eventually, she said, his out-of-control ego turned him into a violent sexual predator who preyed on young female devotees.

Miss Jafa-Bodden, a mother of one, studied at Oxford and Birmingham Universities before joining the Bikram empire in 2011 as the £90,000-a-year head of his legal team.

She said: 'He can be very charming when you first meet him, but that didn't last long.

'There were allegations of rape and assault. Perhaps the first complaint was a surprise but then I began to see a pattern. He told me to 'fix' these women, but when I refused to cover up his alleged crimes, he became abusive, calling me a 'f***ing bitch'.

'He would sit on a throne at the front of this vast room filled with trainees. During lectures the throne would be lowered. There would be a girl stroking his hair, another massaging his back and another stroking him under orange towels that would be placed on his lap.

'It was disgusting, but it was a daily occurrence. He is a cold, calculating predator. I witnessed him routinely abusing that power, often with the most vulnerable students.

'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.'

Miss Jafa-Bodden sued for sex discrimination and last January was awarded more than £5 million.

Choudhury immediately fled to his native India and the sum has now risen to £6.4 million because of interest.

Miss Jafa-Bodden's legal team, headed by lawyers Mark Quigley and Carla Minnard, has been trying to locate the guru's property, including a diamond-encrusted watch worth £1 million, various properties around the globe – and his fleet of luxury classic cars.

The garage manager, an old family friend of 72-year-old Choudhury, claims he does not know where the vehicles are – even though lawyers for Miss Jafa-Bodden claim to have photographic evidence of him taking part in their removal.

Miss Jafa-Bodden said that the ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court was 'a delicious irony', adding: 'I started off working for him and I ended up with his company.

'In a million years I never imagined that would be the outcome. Now I want to sell what we can so I can get my money and move on with my life.'

Choudhury's lawyer, Mark L. Shane, last night declined to comment on the judgment.


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