Raj Kundra key conspirator in ‘Hotshots’ porn racket: Mumbai crime branch
AFP

A raid conducted at a bungalow in Madh Island in Mumbai by the crime branch in February this year, where a shoot for a porn clip was allegedly on, proved the undoing of 45-year-old British businessman and husband of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty -- Ripu Sudan Balkishan Kundra alias Raj Kundra -- who was arrested by the Mumbai crime branch on Monday night and remanded in police custody for two days.

Mumbai crime branch officials said that the celebrity businessman was the ‘key conspirator’ in the pornographic video racket case, and claimed to have seized crucial evidence in the form of several pornographic video clips, emails, and other electronic and documentary evidence during a raid at his office in Andheri.

On Tuesday, the crime branch produced Kundra and his company’s Information Technology head, 43-year-old Ryan Thorpe, before a court where it stated that Kundra’s company Viaan had a tie-up with Kenrin, a UK-based company owned by Kundra’s brother-in-law Pradeep Bakshi. Kenrin, crime branch officials said, owns the applet Hotshots which was removed from the app store in June 2020, and from the PlayStore in November 2020 because its content violated norms.

Milind Bharambe, joint commissioner of police (crime), said, “All operations of Hotshot, from its content, maintenance and accounting related issues were handled by Kamat from Viaan’s office in Andheri. During the search we have obtained several porn clips and documentary and electronic evidence.”

Investigation has also revealed that the applet ‘Hotshots’ was developed by Kundra’s company, Armsprime Media, and was later sold to Kenrin. Kundra had then, in December 2019, resigned from Armsprime Media.

Crime branch officials said that the detail emerged after the raid at the bungalow in Madh, after the agency in February arrested model and actor Vandana Tiwari alias Gehana Vasisth for producing porn clips which were uploaded on Hotshots. Later, the crime branch had arrested Umesh Kamat, who was working for Kundra’s company and was looking after the India operations.

Crime branch officials said that they found agreements between Vasisth and Kamat, and also between Vasisth and Pradeep Bakshi. Crime Branch also found several WhatsApp groups created by Kundra in which there were discussions with respect to the applet, revenue generated and also chats about payments made to actors, which the crime branch had earlier filed in its chargesheet against Vasisth and Kamat.

Crime branch officials said that they had found evidence of payment received in the account of Armsprime Media, and said that at least three other FIRs have been registered in connection with the case, two at Malvani police station and one at Lonavala police station, where actors have complained of being duped. The Maharashtra cyber police too has registered a separate FIR for showing obscene content on OTT platform, and has frozen assets worth Rs 7.5 crore of the arrested accused and their associated companies.

Crime branch officers said, investigation also revealed that aspiring actors were lured to perform bold scenes by promising them roles in web series or short stories. However, in the name of bold scenes, they were allegedly made to perform nude or semi-nude scenes. The videos were later uploaded to apps such as Hotshots, a subscription-based application.

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