Raj Kundra: Indian millionaire embroiled in porn scandal

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Raj Kundra attends a party in Mumbai in 2011Image source, Getty Images
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Police say Raj Kundra is a "key conspirator" in a porn production ring

In a case that has grabbed headlines, one of India's most flamboyant businessmen has been arrested for allegedly making porn films.

Raj Kundra, a British citizen and the husband of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, is an industrialist and an owner of a cricket team in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the world's richest cricket tournament.

Police now claim the 45-year-old is a "key conspirator" in a porn production ring that coerced several women to engage in sex videos that were posted on the internet.

Mr Kundra has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer Abad Ponda said Mr Kundra's "arrest is illegal".

Nine people have been arrested so far in connection with the investigation, which was launched in February. They include an actor, producer and a company executive.

According to the police, the accused made false promises to lure women who had answered acting advertisements to participate in the videos.

These clips - allegedly shot in rented bungalows - were then uploaded to mobile phone apps for some 400,000 subscribers who paid 200-400 rupees (about $2.70-$5.40; £1.95-£3.90) a month. And Mr Kundra, according to the police, was the owner of a company involved in featuring the porn clips on these platforms.

Mr Kundra was arrested from his residence - a sprawling bungalow in the city of Mumbai - on 20 July. He is facing charges of cheating, sale of obscene content and "obscene and indecent advertisements and displays".

Under Indian law, publishing or transmitting "obscene" material, including pornography is illegal and punishable by up to seven years in jail.

But the industry still thrives in the country - its popularity in large part driven by the internet. Indians are believed to be among the largest consumers of online pornography - and were ranked third in a list of countries published by Pornhub, the world's largest pornographic video-sharing website, after the United States and Britain.

Image source, Getty Images
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Raj Kundra, seen here being escorted by police in Mumbai on Tuesday, denies any wrongdoing

On 4 February 2021, a group of Mumbai police officers - acting on a tip-off from an unknown person - walked through the metal entry gates of a one-storey bungalow in the north of the city, where a porn film was allegedly being shot.

They were in Madh, a small northern suburb of Mumbai, and a famous location for shooting Bollywood films.

Police said they found two people on a couch, sitting naked and making "obscene poses". Another woman was filming them, they said.

Mobile phones, laptops and cameras with salacious content were recovered from the house, police said. Five people, including the person assisting in shooting the film, were detained. And the woman who police said was being forced to pose for them was rescued.

This was a start of a long-drawn investigation during which a number of other women, who alleged they had been forced to act in such films, filed complaints.

During questioning, the woman caught filming the scene told investigators that she owned the mobile application Hot Hits.

Police said she and others would upload porn films on the mobile app which followed a subscription model similar to that of OTT platforms. These films were also advertised on social media, police said.

The films were shot in remote locations - bungalows rented for the day in the suburbs of Mumbai. "New and aspiring female actors were lured by the accused, promising them roles in short films and web series," said Mumbai joint police commissioner for crime, Milind Bharambe.

Besides Hot Hits, three other apps are also being investigated. "The police have frozen 75 million rupees [about $1m; £730,000] in the bank accounts of other apps as crime proceeds," Mr Bharambe said.

Image source, Getty Images
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Mr Kundra is seen here at a 2015 film premiere with his wife, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty

Police say there are two main aspects to the case: arresting those who produced such porn films, and those who broadcast the clips.

Investigators say they are also looking into a UK-based company called Kenrin - they claim that Mr Kundra sold a pornography app called Hot Shots to Kenrin to bypass scrutiny under Indian law. The app was available on Apple Store and Google Play - both removed it last year after receiving complaints.

"Even though Kenrin is based in London, the content creation, operations and the accounting were handled by Mr Kundra's company called Viaan," said Mr Bharambe. The BBC has not been able to contact Viaan for comment.

On Tuesday, investigators searched Viaan's office in Mumbai.

Police said they recovered porn films. Whatsapp chats, emails and accounting sheets of the alleged business were also seized.

Mr Kundra is not new to controversy. In 2013, he faced allegations of spot-fixing during the Indian Premier League tournament.

Media caption,

'They morphed my face on to a porn clip'