Raj Kundra arrest: A look at Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty’s husband, the pornography racket and whether this is his first brush with the law

Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra Image Credit: AFP

A week into Raj Kundra’s arrest that has sent shockwaves through Bollywood, the case continues to get murkier by the day with the businessman’s wife, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra defending her man by claiming he is in the business of ‘erotica’ and ‘not porn’.

Shetty Kundra has been trolled on social media for her efforts, as has her actress-sister Shamita Shetty.

With reports now coming in that India’s Enforcement Directorate is now involved in the matter and has asked for FIR copy, case files and some other relevant documents from Mumbai Police, we look back on the history of Kundra, details of his arrest and whether it is his first brush with the law.

Who is Raj Kundra?

Raj Kundra Image Credit: IANS

Details about Kundra’s life are sketchy at best before he came into the limelight for marrying Shilpa Shetty. Born and raised in London, Kundra reportedly moved to Dubai aged 18, followed by Nepal before relocating to England to sell pashmina shawls.

In 2003, he married Kavita Kundra, but the couple split after three years. Kundra later claimed his wife had an affair with his sister’s husband, citing that as the reason behind the divorce and not because of his growing closeness to Shetty Kundra at the time, who had become famous overnight after winning the British reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ in 2007.

Unverified reports cite him returning to Dubai in 2007 to set up Essential General Trading LLC, ‘a company dealing in precious metals, construction, mining and renewable energy projects. He was also at that time involved in the financing and production of Bollywood films.’ However, this information could not be verified independently.

Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra on their wedding day in 2009 Image Credit: AP

The businessman married Shetty Kundra in 2009 and the couple has a son and a daughter. Kundra also has a daughter from his previous marriage.

In 2013, Kundra also authored a book titled How Not to Make Money. The thriller follows two London-based bootleggers who team up with a lawyer in a get-rich-quick scheme. The book has resurfaced on social media following Kundra’s arrest with many drawing parallels to the celebrity’s real life.

What other businesses are Kundra involved in?

Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra
Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra Image Credit: AFP

While details are sketchy at best, Kundra’s name has been associated with the Shilpa Shetty Foundation, his wife’s charitable organisation.

In 2012, Kundra and Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt launched India’s first professional mixed martial arts fighting league, the Super Fight League. The former’s name has also been associated with Satyug Gold and Bastian Hospitality, a restaurant chain in Mumbai.

In 2013, Kundra also purchased a home in Burj Khalifa, Dubai, reportedly located on the 19th floor of the world’s tallest tower. It was reported as an investment by the couple, but later Kundra said it was an anniversary gift for his wife.

Kundra’s name also has been linked to the Hotshots mobile app, which is at the centre of the current police investigation that allegedly films and distributes pornography.

Is this Kundra’s first brush with the law?

Rajasthan Royals co-owner Raj Kundra. Image Credit: Agency

IPL scandal: Not quite. Kundra, who was the co-owner of the India Premier League cricket team Rajasthan Royals was banned for lifetime from holding any office related to cricket in 2015 by the Indian Supreme Court, following a spot fixing scandal in 2013. His team was also banned for two years at the time.

Following the verdict, Kundra said he has been “wronged” while terming it “unfair” that the whole team has been “harshly treated” for the actions of one individual. Reacting to the three-member Justice Lodha committee’s order handing down punishments to him and his team for his indulging in betting during the 2013 season of IPL, Kundra said his support in the investigation regarding betting “seems to have backfired”. Kundra sought disclosure of the evidence that formed the basis of action against him so that he could know the basis on which “they have destroyed my hard-earned reputation. I have anyway washed my hands off cricket in India,” he said.

Gold scam: Incidentally, the same week Kundra was arrested this month, actor-producer Sachiin Joshi won a legal battle against Kundra, Shetty Kundra and Satyug Gold. Joshi had accused the couple and their company of cheating him in a gold scheme. The Bombay High Court has directed Satyug Gold to hand over the possession of 1kg gold as well as pay Joshi a sum of Rs300,000 as a cost towards legal proceedings.

Following his win, Joshi said now that he has got his gold and fine, he is happy that karma has caught up with Kundra.

Bollywood actor Sachiin Joshi Image Credit: Supplied

Dubious links: According to Jagran TV, Kundra was questioned by India’s Enforcement Directorate in October 2019 for a case involving business dealings with a man named Ranjeet Bindra, whom Mumbai Police had arrested for allegedly being a frontman for terrorist Dawood Ibrahim’s aide Iqbal Mirchi.

Textile case: In 2017, the Maharashtra police lodged a criminal case against the Bollywood actress and her husband for allegedly duping a textile firm owner of Rs2.4 million. Kundra released a statement at the time saying that “the vendor is misusing his connections in various stations”.

He added: “This is a civil matter and an abuse of the law. We have tight contracts signed and on the contrary, the vendor owes us money for not fulfilling orders. But the deal is unfortunately being wound up due to the business failing and we are following the laws of the land to close the various matters properly. It’s sad that at every step of the way, my wife’s name is dragged in to create media hype. She was a non-executive, who had nothing to do with the daily running of the business.”

Complaint by Poonam Pandey: In 2019, actress Poomam Pandey filed a complaint in Bombay High Court against Kundra and his associates at Armsprime Media where she alleged they were illegally using content featuring her for an app they had developed even after a contract between the two parties had been terminated.

What’s the current scandal about?

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Businessman Raj Kundra being escorted by Mumbai Police Image Credit: AFP

The businessman was arrested by Mumbai Police on July 19 for his connection with filming pornographic content that was being distributed through mobile apps. In a media statement, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, Hemant Nagrale confirmed Kundra had been arrested. “There was a case registered with Crime Branch Mumbai in February 2021 about the creation of pornographic films and publishing them through some Apps. We’ve arrested Mr Raj Kundra in this case on 19/7/21 as he appears to be the key conspirator of this,” the statement read.

What are the charges?

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Raj Kundra being taken to court Image Credit: PTI

Kundra has reportedly been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 420 of cheating, 34 for common intention, along with 292 and 293 that involves indulging in the obscene act in public places and publicly exhibiting or circulating obscene books or literature and under the Information Technology Act and under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act.

How long will he stay in jail?

Kundra has been remanded to police custody in Mumbai until July 27.

Was Kundra under investigation?

According to a Times of India report, Kundra’s name first appeared in the probe after the Property Cell of Mumbai Police came across the involvement of a UK production company, Kenrin, whose executive, Umesh Kamat was arrested. He was the former employee of Kundra and was accused of uploading at least eight “pornographic and obscene” videos shot by Gehna Vasisth on a social media app.

Wait, isn’t Gehna Vasisth that Indian TV actress?

Gehana Vasisth
Image Credit: Insta/gehana_vasisth

Yes, Gehna Vasisth starred in the Ekta Kapoor-backed web series Gandii Baat. In February, Mumbai Police arrested the actress for her connection to a First Information Report registered that claimed women were being forced to expose for pornographic films. According to the police at the time, several new apps and websites streaming pornographic content had been under scrutiny for luring girls by promising them roles in their ‘web series’ and eventually pressurising them to act in semi-porn films. Vasisth, whose real name is Vandana Tiwari, allegedly shot some of these videos.

How is Vasisth linked to Kundra?

Vasisth happens to be currently out on bail in connection to the same case that reportedly caught up with Kundra. In fact, following Kundra’s arrest, Vasisth had her publicist issue a statement that read: “The law will take its course. We have full faith in Mumbai Police, but they should not mix up porn with erotica or bold content… The courts will eventually decide during trial as to who are the real culprits and which of the arrested accused were merely used, by others.” Refusing to name Kundra, the statement further read: “We don’t want to comment any more, as Gehana is on bail in the same cases and she does not want to prejudice or impair her right to her personal defence. However, police should investigate fully as there are many more skeletons in the cupboards of the rich and famous.”

Is she pro or against Kundra?

Indian TV star Gehana Vasisth 001
Indian TV star Gehana Vasisth Image Credit: Screengrab/Kalinga TV

In a chat with Times of India, Vasisth defended Kundra and said that the case against her and the businessman ‘has no basis’. “Raj has a business running from outside India. Hotshots was his app. Armsprime was his company that had created apps for Sherlyn Chopra, Poonam Pandey, me, and others. All the girls who are alleging that they were pushed into it, particularly Sherlyn and Poonam, are lying. Poonam has been doing nude videos for years. Her husband and she have worked on so many videos. Poonam’s own app today has nothing to do with Armsprime. Whatever they create has nothing to do with Raj. They all feared being embroiled in the matter and so, they named Raj,” she said.

Who is Poonam Pandey and why is issuing statements in the Kundra arrest?

Indian model turned actress Poonam Pandey Image Credit: AP

Poonam Pandey is a model and actress from India who has made a name for herself through her racy images and adult content. After her 2019 complaint against Kundra and his associates at Armsprime Media she alleged they were illegally using content featuring her for an app they had developed even after a contract between the two parties had been terminated. She further alleged the developers had given out her personal number on the app, with the message asking people to call her for a good time. Kundra and his associate Saurabh Kushwah denied Pandey’s charge and legal proceedings have been ongoing. Subsequently, Kundra also stated he had quit the company in 2019 and had nothing to do with the case.

How is actress Sherlyn Chopra involved?

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Image Credit: Sherlyn Chopra official Instagram handle

Along with Pandey, actress-model Sherlyn Chopra was earlier linked to the soft porn case with the duo blaming Kundra for bringing them to the adult industry. Other details Chopra included in her police statement was that she has paid Rs300,000 for each project and so far, she had done about 15 to 20 projects for Kundra.

Is anyone else involved?

YouTuber Puneet Kaur
YouTuber Puneet Kaur Image Credit: instagram.com/kaurbeautyy

A YouTuber, Puneet Kaur, has opened up against arrested businessman Raj Kundra. Kaur alleged that Kundra had approached her via social media direct messaging for the latter’s mobile app, through which pornographic content produced by him was reportedly published. Moreover, the YouTuber said that, after receiving direct message from Kundra, at first she could not believe that it was actually him who had sent her that message — and thought that it might be a spam message. “Brooooo you OGS remember our verified DM video where he reached out to me for Hotshots? I’m dead,” Kaur wrote on her Instagram story reacting to a news piece talking about Raj Kundra playing a key role in making the Hotshots application.

What is Kundra saying?

File photo of Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and her businessman husband Raj Kundra against whom Maharashtra police launched an FIR in connection with a cheating case in Mumbai Image Credit: PTI

Kundra had rubbished the allegations made by them and sought anticipatory bail in June in the case based on a complaint that alleged that certain online platforms were publishing obscene videos as a part of their web series. Kundra had even denied having any links to the alleged porn apps case citing that he had exited from the company in 2019.

Has Shetty Kundra said anything following her husband’s arrest?

Actress Shilpa Shetty and with husband Raj Kundra Image Credit: IANS

According to reports, Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty Kundra recorded a statement with Mumbai Police in connection to the arrest of her husband Kundra, who stands accused of filming and distributing pornographic content through mobile apps in India.

Sources cited by news agency ANI, claimed Shetty Kundra named London-based Pradeep Bakshi, Kundra’s brother-in-law, as the person behind the Hotshot app that is at the centre of the investigation.

Sources further stated that in her statement, Shetty Kundra told Mumbai Police she was not aware of the exact content of the Hotshot app, while also claiming she has nothing to do with the application herself.

Shetty Kundra also defended her husband, claiming his innocence, while stating that he is in the business of erotica and not pornography, while claiming several streaming platforms show similar content.

Where is police investigation headed?

Shilpa Shetty and Raj Kundra
Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty Kundra Image Credit: Instagram.com/rajkundra9

Mumbai Police conducted a raid at Shetty Kundra and her husband’s residence where they reportedly seized a hard disk and a computer.

Mumbai Police is also checking whether any money earned from the porn racket was routed to/from the actress’ bank accounts.

According to ANI, police sources have revealed that four of Raj’s employees have turned witnesses in the pornography racket case.

Following his arrest and police custody extension, Raj Kundra’s lawyer, advocate Subhash Jadhav stated they will move High Court in the matter. Tagging the arrest as illegal, he told Times of India: “Raj Kundra’s arrest is illegal. There is not a single video which can be called pornographic. A 4,000 page charge sheet has been filed but the police were not even able to point out any sexually explicit act in the video which demonstrated illegality under Section 67A. Rest of the section applied are bailable. The Supreme Court had earlier released Munawar Farooqui on the same grounds.”

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Mumbai Police Crime Branch raids Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and her husband Raj Kundra’s house, in Mumbai on Friday. Image Credit: ANI

While searching Raj Kundra’s properties in Mumbai, the cops found a hidden cupboard at the businessman’s Viaan Industries office in Andheri, company also owned by Kundra and Shetty Kundra. A forensic auditing of Viaan Industries, Armsprime and Hotshot app is being conducted. An official told Times of India: “We have brought these files, which will be studied by the forensic auditing team. We are sending eight servers seized from Kundra’s office for forensic analysis as prima facie we have found pornographic data deleted after the police busted the racket in February. Experts can find out whether these servers have been used to upload pornographic material to Kenrin.”

The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), Maharashtra have also stated they have received four emails alleging that businessman bribed Mumbai Police officials with Rs2.5 million (Dh123,294.8) to evade arrest. According to an ACB official, the emails were sent by a Yash Thakur, another person accused in the pornography case. A similar amount was allegedly demanded from him as well.

How have celebrities reacted to Kundra’s arrest?

Kangana Ranaut
Kangana Ranaut Image Credit: Instagram/KanganaRanaut

Kangana Ranaut, who is vocal on social media and uses the medium to express herself, also reacted to Kundra’s arrest. She reaffirmed her commitment to expose the “underbelly of Bullywood”, stating that she intends to do it through her upcoming production. Ranaut took to her Instagram stories and shared a news report regarding Kundra’s arrest. She then wrote: “All that glitters is not gold, I am going to expose underbelly of Bullywood in my upcoming production called Tiku Weds Sheru… we need strong value system and conscience in the creative industry and, of course, a whip …”

190819 Mika Singh
Mika Singh Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Gulf News

Bollywood singer Mika Singh while speaking with the paparazzi in Mumbai described Kundra as a “lovely man.” He added that while he was unfamiliar with the app in question, he had seen one of Raj’s other apps. Main toh wait hi kar raha hoon ke kya hoga. Let’s see. Jo bhi hoga acha hoga, mujhe itna knowledge nahi hai unke app ke baare mein. Maine ek app dekhi thi, wo simple app thi. Zyada kuch tha nahi uske andar so let’s hope for the best [Whatever happens, will be for the good. I don’t have much knowledge about his app. I have seen one of his apps and that was simple, wasn’t anything in it],” Singh said. “I think he’s a nice guy, Raj Kundra. Ab dekhte hai kya sach hai aur kya jhoot hai jo court hi bata sakta hai. [The court will decide what’s right and what’s wrong],” Mika added