Crime

Kundra ‘key conspirator’ in porn app case, say cops

Wednesday, 21 July 2021 | PNS | Mumbai

Skeletons began tumbling out of the arrested businessman Raj Kundra’s closet on Tuesday, as the police told a city court that Kundra and his brother-in-law Pradeep Bakshi were allegedly involved in the streaming of pornographic videos through an app called “Hotshots”.

A day after they arrested actress Shilpa Shetty’s husband  Kundra in connection with the alleged racket involving the making of pornographic content, the Mumbai Crime Branch sleuths named him as a “key conspirator” and Bakshi as co-conspirator involving the creation and publication of pornographic films through some apps.

Simultaneously, the investigators arrested Kundra’s aide Ryan John Tharpe, a techie who looked after Kundra-Shetty’s companies, from Nerul in Navi Mumbai, for his alleged role and involvement in this pornographic racket.

Kundra and Ryan were produced before a Mumbai court which remanded them to police custody till July 23.

With the arrest of Kundra and Ryan, the number of arrests made in the scam involving the creation and circulation of pornographic content has gone up to 12.

The Crime Branch sleuths told the court that the role of Kundra, Ryan and Bakshi came to light after they arrested nine people, including Gahna Vashisht and Umesh Kamat. Gahna and Kamat were both involved in producing and shooting porn films, writing scripts; they also sent copies of their scripts to Kundra.

Kundra is the owner of Viaan Industries Ltd, jointly promoted by the couple, while Bakshi — a British citizen, who is married to Kundra’s sister — is the Chairman of Kenrin Ltd., London. 

The HotShots app — described as the “world’s first 18+ app” showcasing some of the hottest models and celebs globally in exclusive photos, short films and hot videos (implying soft-to-hard porn) — was removed from mobile platforms. Similarly, Apple and Google have removed the app because of the pornographic content in it.

Talking to media persons here, Joint Commissioner of Police Milind Bharambe said: “We found agreement papers, emails, accounts WhatsApp chats and pornographic clips from his office during the search”.

Confirming the removal of the app from the Apple and Google play stores, Bharambe said: “The free-to-download app was removed by both Apple and Google play store for the type of its content. We have recovered incriminating evidences like several HotShot films, video clips, WhatsApp chats, etc. during the investigation”.

However, the police said that investigations had not revealed any role of Shilpa Shetty in the scam.

On his part, 46-year-old Kundra has denied any involvement and has claimed that he had sold the “Hotshots” app to Pradip Bakshi. However, the police said Kundra was kept in the loop about the finances of the app.

The police said that Kundra had allegedly also set up a WhatsApp group on which matters relating to the production, distribution and selling of Hotshots clips were discussed.

Kundra, who lives in Mumbai with his wife Shilpa Shetty and two children, has been booked under various sections of the Information Technology Act, 2000, Indian Penal Code and the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act for alleged cheating and “obscene and indecent advertisements and displays”  If convicted, Kundra may end up being behind the bars  for five to seven years.

Among other things, the investigations have revealed that Kundra-led company paid Rs 10,000 to the female artists for the clips.

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