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CWG: Indian masseur suspended, to appear in court
March 14, 2006 12:09 IST
Last Updated: March 14, 2006 16:41 IST
A masseur, who disgraced the Indian contingent by allegedly sexually assaulting a teenager at the Commonwealth Games Village, has been suspended on Tuesday and will appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday.
Taking a firm and decisive action, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has removed him from the Games Village and his accreditation card has been handed over to the Commonwealth Games Federation pending the judicial decision.
"Further action will be taken after due process has taken its course," said a visibly angry chef-de-mission H J Dora.
Australian police on Tuesday said the 35-year-old man has been charged with one count of indecent assault and one count of unlawful assault.
"The man is a masseur with the Indian team and he was interviewed and charged today," a police spokeswoman said.
The accused was released on bail and he will appear at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday. Conviction on an indecent assault charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail in Victoria.
The allegation of sexual assault by the masseur a day before the start of the competitions has sent shock waves through the Games Village and the big Indian contingent, which has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
The huge Indian contingent awoke to a stormy morning as their country was being dragged into disrepute with local police launching an investigation following allegations that a 16-year-old cleaner was assaulted last night as she tried to clean the room of the Indian official.
The girl complained that the man attempted to hug, kiss and fondle her. A special Games Village-based police criminal investigation unit has been called in to investigate.
The Indians were shell-shocked to hear about this incident and went into damage control mode.
Dora said that he was advised by the police not to provide name to the media for the present.
He, however, added: "This incident is now the subject of an investigation by the relevant authorities and we are taking this matter very seriously."
"If the allegations are proved, the IOA will take the strongest possible action. We extend our utmost cooperation with the Australian authorities in this matter."
But even as the Victorian Police are investigating the allegations of the masseur having assaulted the teenager in the Parkville Games village, there is a debate on who actually cleared him to accompany the Indian team.
According to sources, the accused was not cleared by the IOA and instead was accommodated in the side, dropping the IOA masseur, on Sports Authority of India's (SAI) suggestions.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that the Police have impounded the passport of the support staff and at a hurriedly convened media conference, a Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) spokesperson said, "Investigation in this matter is on and we hope to complete it as soon as possible."
In case the charges are proved, the alleged offender faces possible court action under Australian law and could be immediately stripped of his special Games visa, meaning he would be deported.
It is the first serious investigation conducted by the Village police, who are responsible for keeping order among thousands of athletes and officials.
Sources confirmed the complaint but said that the alleged offender had strongly denied any wrongdoing.
Police spokeswoman Carla Coslovich last night confirmed the teenager's complaint.
"Police are investigating allegations of indecent assault. There is a criminal investigation unit set up at the village and they are investigating," she said.
The Cleanevent company has the contract for housekeeping and cleaning at the village, and has an arrangement with Rotary clubs to allow Rotary volunteers to clean in return for payments for fundraising efforts. Another smaller group called Care Force also has volunteers working as cleaners.
Among the 210 Rotary volunteers working as cleaners at the village yesterday were a County Court judge, three magistrates, three Queen's Counsels and several media identities.
In the past, many multi-disclipline Games have been rocked by such behaviour. At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, an Ugandan athlete had been accused of sexual assault but was later freed after Australian prosecutors dropped the charges.
The 22-year-old swimmer was charged with having sexual intercourse without consent with a 17-year-old girl near the main Olympics site. His accreditation was cancelled and he was sent back by the Ugandan contingent.
Victorian Commonwealth Games Minister Justin Madden earlier said incidents were to be expected given the concentration of about 6,000 athletes and officials on the site.
"That's the size of a regional town. You will have issues in the Village that are the equivalent of a regional town," Madden said.