Churches and temples are places of worship; they are meant to be a haven for the struggling, a place where anyone can go to be comforted and feel safe. However, as history has proven, again and again, places of worship sometimes contain dark secrets and those involved will go to great lengths to cover it up. According to a report by The National Post, the head priest at the Hindu Sabha temple in Brampton, Ontario attempted to silence a young woman with money. The Ontario Hindu temple priest offered to pay the member of his congregation thousands of dollars to drop her allegations of rape against the temple’s president.

Thankfully, the woman refused. Parveen Sharma, the president of the Hindu Sabha temple, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison this week after being successfully convicted of two counts of sexual assault. 

Sharma’s crimes were of the most heinous variety. The president had lured his victim by developing a friendly relationship with her via text. The woman even rented a basement apartment from him and his wife. It was in that very apartment where he forcibly fondled and raped the 25-year-old woman.

Head priest Abhay Dev Sharma had reportedly met with the victim, offering her compensation if she withdrew the allegations. However, Sharma testified in court that it was the victim who demanded $50,000. He also claimed that he was unaware of the charges when he arranged the meeting.

That argument did not sit right with the judge. Justice Woolcombe scoffed at the priest’s statements in a written decision:

“He is the one who instigated the meeting, clearly prepared to discuss payment to the complainant,” read a statement by Woollcombe. “It seems to me that the only conclusion to reach from his evidence is that he wanted to explore whether or not the complainant was open to taking a payment to make the charges go away."

One might “reasonably suspect” that Sharma had something to do with the priest’s offer, but there was no evidence to that effect so the incident could not be used against the accused, the judge continued.

Peel Region Police are not currently investigating whether the man’s attempts to shut down the allegations is in direct violation of any laws. A spokesperson for the temple could not be reached for comment by The National Post.

According to the Canadian Criminal Code, hush money payments similar to the one Sharma allegedly attempted to funnel to the victim can, in fact, be considered unlawful. They are considered an obstruction of justice, especially when it involves an attempt to disrupt a court testimony.

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