He was a noted spammer then. Surprised? but not he. He had an answer ready when he was confronted with the allegation. As per records, he had links with Topsites LLC that worked out of Malviya Nagar in Delhi.
At that time, webmasters or website administrators registered themselves in a forum called Open Directory. The company Topsites.us allegedly copied names from the website and mailed or called the webmasters saying that they are registered for free right now, but needed to pay up to continue the services. While some paid up, there were others who rejected the offers.
But the fraudulence did not last long when its 'clients' started suspecting their authenticity when the frequency of the mails and the phone calls started increasing. In 2004, Conrad Longmore, a UK website owner and an editor of the Open Directory traced the WHOIS records (which is an online database providing records of who registered a site and its host origin).
That was not all, Topsites landed in a complete mess when Dan Balsam, an US lawyer known for suing spammers received 24 spams in his inbox. "Dan filed a lawsuit in June 2004 against a number of defendants, including a man named Somnath Bharti, who apparently operated an entity named Topsites LLC," said his lawyer. THis resulted in an out-of-court settlement where the spammers paid $5,000 to Balsam and promised not to spam him.
In fact, a former employee of Topsites in 2005 named Bharti as the manager of the company. "Six or seven of us took calls and resolved webmasters' queries. A system sent automated spam emails. The webmasters were told they'd need to pay around $10 to be included in the Topsites directory for a month. For a six-month listing, the rate was $30," a TOI report states him.
Longmore also had evidence of someone sending him details about the company and Somnath Bharti's profile, photograph and business card.
Digging deeper, one will find the Law Minister's election affidavit naming a company called Madgen, which also operates from the same address as the Topsites. As per the Ministry of Corporate affairs, the company was registered in 2002 and lists firstname.lastname@example.org as its email contact.
Moreover, Web Archives has a record of Somnath Bharti's website SomnathBharti.com and its links to TopSites. In fact, in a message posted on the website, Bharti had requested visitors to send emails to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Longmore suspects,"Topsites probably made several million dollars through this (spam) operation."
Gradually, the defamed law minister charteded his way to the list of top 100 spammers in the list of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) and Bharti was named among the three Indians for mass spamming. It is suspected that after Topsites, another new website directory-AllWebHunt-from the same IP address is operative with similar traits of TopSites.
However, continuing to deny all allegations, Bharti said,"Back in early 2000, server of Madgen Solutions Pvt Ltd was entrusted with an associate by me who misused it without my consent/knowledge. When the matter cropped up, I came to know that the said associate had generated mass emails soliciting business and had also impersonated me on multiple occasions. On exploring I found out that the emails generated were for a legitimate business, originating from a valid traceable IP address and in proper compliance with the laws applicable in the US, ie CANSPAM Act, then... hence this breach of trust between me and this associate of mine was not pursued in a court of law."
Spamming may not be a crime in India, but it is certainly unethical and considered a severe cyber crime in Canada, USA, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.