The 38-year-old pastor and married father of two, Ravinesh Chand, was sentenced today in absentia to 14 years in prison by the High Court in Suva, Fiji. He must serve 11 years before he would be eligible for parole.
Yesterday he was found guilty of three counts of rape and one count of sexual assault.
Sentencing was scheduled to take place at 2 pm yesterday, but during a recess which began at approximately 1 pm, Chand allegedly told his attorney, Iqbal Khan that he was stepping outside to speak with his wife. Khan advised the court that he had told his client to be back in the court room by 1:45 pm.
Rather than return however, Chand is said to have fled in his taxi, which he drove as a means of supplementing income to support his family which included two children, ages 9 and 5.
Khan informed the court that his client’s cell phone remained off after several attempts to make contact. A bench warrant was issued by Justice Daniel Goundar, and Police Chief Operations Officer ACP Abdul Khan assured the court that police had already launched a manhunt to find him.
Chand was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old girl that was a member of the congregation at Hindi Christian Fellowship Mission Church in Nausori when he took the girl to a bakery to buy a birthday cake.
According to the FBC News, the girl obtained permission from her mother to accompany him. Instead of going directly to the bakery though, he took her to a secluded spot where he assaulted and raped her, then took her to get a cake and dropped her off at the church.
Chand is said to have returned later with his family to participate in the girl’s birthday celebration.
He remains on the run, so his sentence will commence once he is back in custody.