Indian Police Seek Statement From Robert De Niro in Sexual Assault Case (Report)

2:24 AM PST 01/23/2014 by Nyay Bhushan
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Robert De Niro

The actor was a guest speaker at last year's THiNK event in Goa organized by "Tehelka" magazine, whose editor is accused of sexually assaulting an employee at the event.

Indian police are reportedly awaiting a response to a questionnaire sent to Robert De Niro in connection with an ongoing investigation in an alleged sexual assault case that took place at Goa's THiNK event last November. The Hollywood icon was a guest speaker at the event organized by leading magazine and media group Tehelka, whose editor Tarun Tejpal was accused of sexual assault by a former employee.

The young woman alleges that Tejpal, 50, assaulted her when they got into an elevator, just after they had escorted De Niro to his suite at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Bambolim, Goa.

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According to wire agency Press Trust of India, Goa Police sent a questionnaire to De Niro -- via his attorney -- early this month.

"We are still waiting for the response despite sending him the reminder," a senior crime branch official was quoted stating.

After the woman first made the allegations and complained to Tehelka's then-managing editor Shoma Chaudhry about the alleged assault, Tejpal responded with an email to staff, writing: "A bad lapse of judgment, an awful misreading of the situation, have led to an unfortunate incident that rails against all we believe in and fight for."

He also added that he was stepping down from his position for six months as "atonement."

"The act happened continuously over a period of time … and despite the girl pleading that she is almost the age of his daughter … She pleaded 'please don't do this' … her 'no' was not accepted … it happened once and it happened the next day," a woman confidante of the young journalist told news network NDTV last November when the allegations sparked a media frenzy because of Tejpal's prominent position in Indian media.

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The incident was considered both shocking and sadly ironic given that Tehelka (which means "storm" in Hindi) has been known for its investigative reporting on issues such as corruption scandals and women's issues. One of the hard-hitting panels at THiNK focused on the role of women in Indian society and featured rape victims sharing their stories.

Tejpal was arrested on Nov. 30 and is currently in jail in Goa facing trial after a local court rejected his bail plea. Goa police are expected to file a charge sheet in the case by the end of January.

The third edition of THiNK was held from Nov. 8-10 and hosted sessions featuring personalities such as Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, director Shekhar Kapur (Elizabeth) and actress Priyanka Chopra. The diverse lineup of sessions also featured figures such as Russian chess champion Garry Kasparov, former Newsweek editor Tina Brown, Kenyan fossil hunter Louise Leakey, Indian environment activist Medha Patkar and perhaps most controversially, one of the founders of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef from Afghanistan.

In his session, De Niro shared his views on topics ranging from his career choices to President Barack Obama. Just before leaving India, De Niro visited the Mumbai acting school founded by veteran Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, who also starred with him in Silver Linings Playbook.

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