According to a media report on Monday, Balesh Dhankhar, a prominent member of the Indian community in Australia and the former chief of the Overseas Friends of the BJP in Australia, was found guilty of raping five Korean women in Sydney after drugging them.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the “politically connected predator” had lured the victims into a web of lies, paralysed them with drugs, and recorded his sexual assaults using a hidden camera. The report described Dhankhar as “one of the worst rapists” in Sydney’s recent history.
A District Court jury in Sydney’s Downing Centre found him guilty of all 39 charges against him, and he will be sentenced later this year after appearing in court again in May. Dhankhar, a data expert, cried as he was handcuffed and led away by officers after Judge Michael King refused his request to remain on bail.
In court, Dhankhar’s wife supported him and often broke down in tears, while he himself cried only once while explaining that he lied to the woman because he was lonely after his extra-marital affair ended, blaming his “unfulfilling” marriage for his loneliness, according to the report.
Dhankhar reportedly sold his family’s assets and properties to fund his legal defence and hired a rising star barrister. The report also stated that in 2018, police found dozens of videos of Dhankhar with other women, sometimes showing them unconscious while other times they were struggling and groaning as if in a nightmare.
The videos found by the police in Dhankhar’s possession were organised into folders, each labelled with a Korean woman’s name, and were accompanied by bookmarks in his browser, according to the report. One video was a 95-minute montage of unconscious women subjected to sexual acts.
The officer in charge of Dhankhar’s case, Sergeant Katrina Gyde of the New South Wales Police, suspected that he was living out a disturbed fantasy. During the trial this month, Crown prosecutor Kate Nightingale compared the videos that Dhankhar bookmarked online with the videos he had recorded, suggesting that he found it fun to watch Korean women who were unconscious or impaired.
However, Dhankhar denied this and insisted that it was just a porn video with nothing to do with unconsciousness or impairment. It was also revealed that Dhankhar had recorded his sexual assaults using a hidden camera in his bedside alarm clock and on his phone.
According to the report, the content of the videos found in Dhankhar’s possession was too graphic and disturbing to describe in detail. During the trial, the jury watched the videos and reportedly writhed in discomfort. At one point, the videos became too much for the jury, and they requested to be sent home early.
Prior to the trial, Dhankhar was very protective of his privacy and sought suppression orders to prevent media coverage of his case. He also removed his photos from social media and wore masks in public to avoid being recognised. However, despite his efforts to maintain a low profile, his personal website, which has been archived online, still highlighted his connections to India’s elite, even as his trial loomed.
As the former chief of the Overseas Friends of BJP, an official group supporting India’s ruling party, Dhankhar was able to associate with the most influential members of Sydney’s Indian diaspora. His website features photos of him with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and at NSW government events where he spoke.
According to the report, Dhankhar had the option to plead guilty to the charges against him in the past five years, which could have resulted in a reduced sentence and spared his victims the trauma of having to give evidence.
However, he chose to contest the charges, and as a result, he now faces the possibility of many years in prison for his crimes. Dhankhar’s sentencing is scheduled to take place later this year.