Nation/World

Businessman freed in sex video case

NEW DELHI – The American head of an Indian Internet firm caught up in a video scandal involving teen sex was released on bail Tuesday as police interrogated the private school student who filmed the lewd clip with a cell phone camera.

A Delhi High Court judge ordered the release of Avnish Bajaj, head of the eBay-owned Baazee.com, who still faces charges that he allowed the sale of pornographic material on the Web site.

Bajaj was arrested Friday and initially held in Delhi’s high-security Tihar prison after a video clip of two private school students engaged in a sexual act was posted for sale on Baazee.com, India’s biggest Internet auction site.

The 17-year-old boy who shot the video on his cell phone also was arrested. A juvenile court allowed police to question him Tuesday in the presence of a social worker and his father. He was being held in a juvenile home until early next month.

The boy and the 16-year-old girl in the clip have been expelled from Delhi Public School, one of the Indian capital’s most prestigious private schools.

Police also have charged a student at the Indian Institute of Technology, whom Baazee identified as the person who offered the clip for sale on the Web site. Investigators are looking for more suspects in a case that has scandalized India, where even public displays of affection as tame as kissing are frowned upon.

Police say the boy shot the racy video with a cell phone in his bedroom in July. The clip, which reportedly runs about two minutes, began to spread on cell phone and Internet networks after he showed it to friends.

As the teen sex video continued to dominate front pages Tuesday, news broke of more students watching sex on the Internet.

In the city Agra, home of the ancient Taj Mahal that was built as a monument to love, police reportedly found 40 students watching pornography in two Internet cafes. When police raided the cafes, they found boys and girls “in various stages of undress and in intimate contact,” the Hindustan Times reported Tuesday.

From the nation’s Parliament to corporate boardrooms and newspaper editorial boards, the cell phone sex video has set off a storm of controversy.

A member of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party accused the United States of meddling in Indian affairs after local reports, citing unidentified official sources, that claimed incoming Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had taken an interest in Bajaj’s case.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman here did not respond to an interview request, but State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington on Monday that “this situation is one of concern at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”

He added that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell “has been following it closely” and had asked about the case at a morning staff meeting.

Bajaj, 34, is a naturalized American citizen who lives in India. He sold Baazee.com to San Jose, Calif.-based eBay for about $50 million in August.

The embassy has provided him with consular assistance, and an American diplomat attended a court hearing Monday at which Bajaj appealed a lower court order that he remain in jail until Friday.

Bajaj faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of more than $2,200 if found guilty of violating India’s Information Technology Act, which prohibits “publishing, transmitting, or causing to publish any information in electronic form which is obscene.”

Bajaj’s attorney argued that the Internet executive should be released on bail because he had cooperated with authorities and had removed the listing of the video sex clip as soon as it came to the company’s attention. The seller offered to e-mail the clip for just less than $3, but the clip itself was not shown on Baazee.com, the company says.



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