Businessman Raj Kundra, arrested in a pornographic films case, was “actually running” the mobile application which streamed these videos, overseeing the content as well financial dealings, Mumbai Police said on Tuesday.
A Mumbai court on Tuesday sent Kundra, husband of Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty, to police custody till July 23. The IT head of his company, Ryan Thorpe, was also arrested and sent to custody till July 23.
Police said Kundra’s Mumbai-based company, Viaan Industries, was linked to the UK-based Kenrin Pvt Ltd, which has been under the police scanner since February this year, when they first registered an FIR in the case and arrested nine persons. According to police, Kenrin owned the ‘Hotshots’ phone application on which pornographic content was uploaded. Kenrin is a production company owned by Kundra’s brother-in-law Pradeep Bakshi, who has also been named as a wanted accused in the case. Addressing the media, Joint CP (Crime) Milind Bharambe said the decision to arrest Kundra was taken on Monday after a police team searched the premises of Viaan Industries in Andheri (West). “In the search operation, our team found evidence of WhatsApp conversations, accounting sheets, e-mail and pornographic clips that clearly show that it was Kundra who was actually running the pornographic app ‘Hotshots’ through his company, Viaan Industries. Hence, we summoned him for questioning and decided to place him under arrest,” Bharambe said.
Police said Kundra’s name came up following the arrest of a co-accused, Umesh Kamat, who was working with Kenrin. In the remand note seeking Kundra’s custody, police said an analysis of Kamat’s laptop showed that e-mails sent to Bakshi had been copied to Kundra also.
Police said Kamat’s phone showed that Kundra had formed various WhatsApp groups for the app, named ‘HS Takedown’, ‘HS Operations’, ‘HS Account’. HS is suspected to be an abbreviation for the ‘Hotshots’ app. Kundra was the administrator of these groups.
Police said these WhatsApp group chats showed that Kundra was overseeing all matters related to the content on the app, including the script and storyline, remuneration paid to those involved, and revenue earned from them.
In the remand note, police said Kundra co-owned a company named Armsprime Media, founded in February 2019, which had developed the ‘Hotshots’ app. The app was sold to Kenrin Pvt Ltd in the same year for $25,000, police said. While Kundra had resigned from Armsprime, he remained connected to the app through Kenrin, according to police. Police said Kundra, through Viaan Industries and its employees, extended support to the app, and the company got Rs 2-3 lakh to maintain and manage it. Bharambe said they had found over Rs 7.5 crore in bank accounts in India and abroad linked to Kundra, which could be linked to proceeds from the app.
Police are investigating if Kenrin was set up in the UK, from where porn clips were uploaded on the app, to bypass Indian laws that restrict pornography.
Bharambe said the app had been removed from the Apple store in June 2020, and from Google store in November 2020, following complaints that it was streaming pornographic material. Later, the accused started showcasing the content through some other platforms, police said.
In April, police had filed a chargesheet against nine accused arrested in February, including Rowa Khan, alleged to be the producer of the pornographic films, her husband Shyam Banerjee, actors Gehna Vasisht and Tanvir Hashmi. All are currently out in bail. According to police, women from small towns were lured with the promise of roles in web series, but when they turned up for the shooting, they would be forced to do nude scenes for pornographic films. The accused were charged with cheating and relevant sections of the Information Technology Act and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.
The Mumbai Police Crime Branch said they had arrested five persons on February 4, following a tip-off about a pornographic film being shot in a bungalow in Madh Island. Four more persons were arrested later. Following investigations in the case, Kamat was arrested on February 9 for alleged involvement in uploading the pornographic content from UK-based servers.
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