Yoga instructor accused of molest 'tried to apologise'

Rakesh allegedly pressured the yoga studio receptionist to message the victim.
Rakesh allegedly pressured the yoga studio receptionist to message the victim.

A yoga instructor accused of groping his student thrice as she adopted poses during a solo lesson in April last year tried to apologise to the victim three months later, a court heard yesterday.

Rakesh Kumar Prasad, 24, allegedly also offered to refund part of her yoga studio membership fee out of his own pocket.

Testifying on the second day of Rakesh's trial, Real Yoga Tampines outlet receptionist Lenie Berdin Intong, 35, said she was pressured by Rakesh to contact the victim, now 26, in July last year.

The student - who cannot be named to protect her identity - paid for a one-year membership last January. She stopped attending classes after the alleged molestation on April 26 and later asked for a refund of about $1,400 in unused fees. However, a Real Yoga manager refused to reimburse her.

On July 28, Ms Intong told the victim via a text message that since the manager was unwilling to refund her, Rakesh would do so, and that " he is willing to say sorry for whatever really happened".

She added that if the victim was uncomfortable with seeing Rakesh, she would meet her to hand her the money instead.

The receptionist was contacted by the police the next day, and she apologised to the victim for meddling in the case.

The student eventually got her cash back after she complained to the Small Claims Tribunal in September last year. It ruled in her favour and ordered Real Yoga to refund her the amount.

Yesterday, Rakesh also took the stand to begin his defence.

He said that the victim attended 90 per cent of his classes for three to four months. He would tap her back and leg, and tell her not to be lazy in holding her poses properly during yoga classes, he testified. He added that he would hold her neck and hand.

Rakesh, who has practised yoga since he was eight and has taught for more than eight years, said that he had no prior complaints for molestation .

Earlier yesterday, the student's best friend also testified. The victim had messaged her about the alleged molestation shortly after the incident, the friend said.

She advised the student to make a police report, which she did the next day.

Station Inspector Chan Zhiyao, who investigated the case, also took the stand to testify.

Rakesh faces one charge of outrage of modesty and one of criminal use of force. He allegedly cupped and pinched the student's breast twice at the Real Yoga studio in Tampines and also slipped his hand into her sports bra and tried to squeeze her breast. Later, he allegedly grabbed her neck .

The trial will resume at a later date with Rakesh's defence.

The maximum penalty for molestation is two years' jail, a fine and caning; and for using criminal force, three months' jail and a $1,500 fine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2016, with the headline 'Yoga instructor accused of molest 'tried to apologise''. Print Edition | Subscribe