I was interested to see Mr Bharti's response to these accusations:
Denying involvement in spamming, Bharti emailed TOI saying: "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."I have to rely on the accuracy of the Times of India with this quote, although the way the TOI has presented it this does like a direct quote from Mr Bharti himself.
Before I start picking apart what Somath Bharti said, it is worth pointing out that the only time I have ever heard anything from him was when he made a flat-out lie claiming that he had never ever heard of the company involved (TopSites LLC), despite having his name listed as CEO on the company business card.
Just for good luck, the person sending me that information also sent me a copy of a very young looking Mr Bharti to prove his identity.
The evidence linking Mr Bharti's Madgen solutions with spam is overwhelming and does not seem to have been denied in the TOI interview, although you can see the reports made at the time here.
But let's look at Mr Bharti's statement to the TOI more closely..
"Back in early 2000, server of Madgen Solutions Pvt Ltd was entrusted with an associate by me who misused it without my consent/knowledge."Well, this is kind of odd because the TopSites LLC spam did not start until 2002 at the earliest, and and Bharti's outfit was only identified much later than that (see this example). So Mr Bharti's memory is either faulty, or this is just an poorly though-out excuse, or maybe he meant the "early 2000s"?
But Mr Bharti's fingers have always been all over the TopSites business, such as the WHOIS details for the original domain used in the spam, topsites.us:
However, that is just a name on the WHOIS records. We can also see his name on the internal databases of one of the many clone sites of TopSites that was set up:
That information comes from a poorly-secured TopSites clone called allwebhunt.com hosted on a server at 22.214.171.124 (Citycom Networks, India) along with Mr Bharti's own personal website of somnathbharti.com.
allwebhunt.com was rapidly taken down after it was exposed in the Times of India, but you can still see an archived copy here, indicating that the operation was running until at least 2011.
The website was exceptionally poorly coded and exposed all of its internal details to the internet. Here's a screenshot of some of the code listing internal users.
But there remains one further unanswered question. Back in 2005 the TopSites business was put up for sale claiming an annual turnover of 1.8 million US dollars. And although Mr Bharti's business partners would probably have pocketed the majority of that money, it would seem highly unlikely that Mr Bharti himself did not share in some of those profits.
Exactly how much did Mr Bharti make from this spamming operation? Even the people who did payment processing got a 9% cut..