Abbotsford Hindu temple priest guilty of sex crimes on teen girls in his congregation

Published: May 3, 2013
Abbotsford

The Hindu temple in Abbotsford is shown in this Nov. 17, 2010 file photo. A priest who was fired from the temple has been found guilty of sexually interfering with two teens in the congregration. Wayne Leidenfrost/PNG files

ELAINE O’CONNOR
VANCOUVER DESI

A priest at an Abbotsford Hindu temple has been found guilty of three counts of sexually interfering with two young women in his congregation.

Karam Vir, 33, was charged in November 2010 with two counts of touching a young person for a sexual purpose and one count of sexual assault.

Justice Neill Brown delivered his verdict in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster Friday, and ordered Vir remanded to custody until his sentencing in August.

In reviewing the evidence, Brown painted a picture of long-term friendships that had developed between Vir and the two teenagers over months.

These relationships of trust were breached when Vir made sexual advances, sexually exploiting the girls, then 17.

The girls’ identities are protected by a publication ban.

“I believe their testimony in the way that Mr. Vir exploited their trust,” Brown said. “I find credible the complainants’ evidence that Mr. Vir sexually touched them . . . I find both complainants were fearful.”

In both cases, the court heard that Vir approached the girls at the temple while they were dealing with struggles with boyfriends.

Vir befriended them, offering advice, and built separate friendships with the girls. In both cases, this involved private visits to his living quarters, outings, and long phone calls — hundreds over a few months, some lasting hours.

The first complainant alleged Vir three times forced kisses on her and forced brief sexual intercourse and/or touching on her three times before she pushed him away, crying and asking him to stop.

In the other case, Vir gave the girl a ring to “protect her.” During their friendship she repeatedly asked Vir to stop talking about wanting to get physically involved with her and resisted his advances, once when he hugged her and tried to touch her chest and again when he pushed her on to a bed after giving her the ring.

The investigation began when members of the Walmsley Avenue Hindu temple approached police with an anonymous letter accusing Vir of sexual interference with a teenage girl in March 2010.

The letter had also been circulated to about 10 businesses in the community.

That same day, one of the girls attended the police station and made a similar statement. She alleged that Vir had kissed her, had touched her inappropriately, and also offered her alcohol.

During the Abbotsford Police Department major crime unit investigation another alleged victim was identified.

The trial of the Indian national began in Chilliwack in February, but was transferred to New Westminster in March.

The young women testified via closed-circuit television, expressing to the court that appearing in public with their stories would bring shame on their families.

A woman who testified in Vir’s defence stated that he had done an excellent job of getting the temple back in good physical and financial shape since he joined in 2008, but that his leadership rankled some of the temple membership. He was fired shortly after charges were laid.

Vir’s sentencing hearing will take place in Chilliwack at 10 a.m. on Aug. 14.

eoconnor@theprovince.com
twitter.com/elainereporting

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