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Sydney serial rapist Balesh Dhankhar found guilty of assaulting five women, joins link with Bharatiya Janata Party

Balesh Dhankhar is one of the most notorious rapists of the recent Sydney case. A District Court jury at Sydney’s Downing Center found on Monday that a politically connected stalker lured five women into a web of lies, drugged them and brutally assaulted them.

But the verdict came only after Dhankhar forced the women to face severe cross-examination in court, and condemned the jury to watching harrowing recordings of his assaults.

Dhankhar hid his privacy and misdeeds and ran away from the cameras outside the court. Balesh Dhankhar running away from cameras he deleted his photos from social media and wore a mask in public. But his personal website, the Online Archive, severed his ties with India’s elite.

Dhankhar heads the Overseas Friends of the BJP, an official group supporting India’s ruling party. It was a position that allowed him to rub shoulders with the most powerful of Sydney’s Indian diaspora.

Photos on her website show her meeting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and speaking at NSW Government events. Dhankhar wrote on the website in 2021, “I see life through light, and the remnants of darkness make beautiful images.”

When police raided Dhankhar’s CBD apartment in October 2018, they found dozens of videos of him having sex with women. The videos were sorted into folders, each labeled with the name of a Korean woman. The detectives then found a series of bookmarks in Dhankhar’s browser.

“Small Drugged Korean F–ed Webcam Roleplay” was the title of a video bookmarked on his computer. Another video ran for 95 minutes, featuring a group portrait of women unconscious during sex.

The NSW Police officer in charge of Dhankhar’s case, Sergeant Katrina Gayde, suspected that Dhankhar was living a disturbed fantasy. “The videos (bookmarked online) are like the videos you recorded,” Crown prosecutor Kate Nightingale said at the trial this month to which Dhankhar replied, “Not at all.”

The prosecutor said, “You thought it was funny … to see Korean women who were in an unconscious, comatose state.” Dhankhar insisted, “It is just a pornographic video, it has nothing to do with fainting.” Away from his public limelight, Dhankhar grew increasingly obsessed with Korean cinema, the language and women.

He developed a fraud mechanism starting with a fake job advertisement for Korean translators posted in 2017. Dhankhar recorded conversations with women who were single, desperate for work and new to Sydney.

There was no job, no company, it was an attempt to “molest women”, agreed Dhankhar after a serious cross-examination with a woman. Dhankhar interviewed each of the women before forcing them to have dinner, soju and wine at the Hilton Hotel’s cafe. The women told the court that they were submissive.

Then Dhankhar would make an excuse and go to his apartment in World Square Tower. He sometimes promised them a view of the opera house, or offered them the car keys.

Dhankhar gave the women alcohol or ice cream laced with sedatives; Traces were found in the blood and hair of two of the victims. He told the doctors that he needed drugs to relax, so that he could “give time to his family”. Dhankhar’s wife and family did not live in Australia at that time.

One of the five girls who were attacked by Dhankhar texted her friend from the World Square Tower. Her vision was getting blurry, and she was scared.

“I am worried myself. And he keeps trying to kiss me… I’m crazy,” she wrote. Her friend urged her to come down; She did not know on which floor Dhankhar lived.

On the 24th floor, Dhankhar was dragging the girl’s body around his living room, trying to dance with her. The woman doesn’t remember much, but is believed to have been assaulted.

“In my culture it’s very bad when this happens,” she told the court. “But it’s better not to stick out because you could be targeted by friends or family.”

Dhankhar’s barrister Rebecca Mitchell asked why he had not cut off contact with the woman if she had been assaulted. “I wanted to break up with him, but I needed a job… I was desperate,” the woman replied.

Dhankhar had texted the woman saying that “she was overwhelmed with emotion” the night they were together. The woman clarified in her evidence.