A porn shoot inside a bungalow near Mumbai earlier this year spurred a sprawling investigation that led to the arrest of businessman Raj Kundra, actor Shilpa Shetty’s husband, on Monday. The trail that started in February went cold midway but picked up pace again in the past weeks, says Mumbai Police.
On February 4, chasing a tip-off, the police raided a bungalow in Madh Island, a popular beach getaway in north Mumbai. Five people were caught shooting a porn film and were arrested.
The police swooped in when two persons were being filmed nude, “in intimate poses”, according to an officer. A woman rescued from the bungalow became a complainant, setting off the investigation.
Days after the raid, the police arrested two more – Rowa Khan, a producer of porn films, and an actor, Gehna Vasisht.
Gehna Vasisht, who is out on bail, says she was wrongly arrested. She also insists she was filming “erotica”, not porn.
The police inquiry soon shifted to apps on which the pornographic clips were uploaded and shared, especially “Hotshots”.
This is where the police picked up a trail to Umesh Kamat, who worked for UK-based firm Kenrin Pvt Ltd.
Umesh Kamat happened to be a former personal assistant of Raj Kundra and he reportedly named him during his questioning.
Kamat’s arrest and the subsequent probe led the police to Raj Kundra, whose involvement in the app emerged as a new angle. His name had cropped up earlier, the police say, but there was nothing concrete against him.
The police investigation found that while Kenrin owned the app, the Mumbai-based company Viaan Industries owned by Raj Kundra was actively involved in running the Hotshots app.
The police believe Kenrin was used to upload the porn clips in order to bypass tough anti-pornography laws in India. The clips were allegedly shot in India, transferred using WeTransfer to the UK and released on paid mobile apps.
The police searched Raj Kundra’s office and found what they call incriminating evidence to establish that he was the key conspirator.
“We found agreement papers, emails , accounts WhatsApp chats and pornographic clips from his office during the search,” Milind Bharambe, Joint Commissioner of Mumbai Police, told reporters.
Based on these findings, Raj Kundra was arrested.
An earlier charge-sheet filed in the case did not mention him because his role was being verified, said the police.
The UK-based company was allegedly set up by Mr Kundra and his brother and registered in that country so it could evade Indian cyber-laws. Laws against publishing and transmitting “obscene material” are tough in India, though watching pornography in private is legal.
The police said the films were shot in houses and hotels rented in Mumbai. Models were allegedly pulled in with promises of film or web series offers and then forced to shoot porn.
Mr Kundra has denied any involvement and has claimed that he had sold the “Hotshots” app to another accused wanted by the police, Pradip Bakshi. But the police said Mr Kundra kept routinely updated on the finances of the app. He had allegedly also set up a WhatsApp group on which the production, distribution and selling of Hotshots clips was discussed.