Honey-trap Case: Scandalous Cover-up

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]The lack of big names in the chargesheet filed in the honey-trap case fuels speculation whether the Kamal Nath government has the courage to act against the high and mighty By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal When the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Madhya Pradesh police was set up to probe the sensational sex-cum-blackmail racket that rocked the state in September last year, it was hoped that investigators would  try to bring into their net several big names, including politicians and IAS/IPS officers who were allegedly mired in the scandal. Instead, the SIT is now facing flak for trying to soft-pedal the case: not only has its charge sheet filed in a Bhopal court on December 28 not mentioned the big shots who were allegedly trapped for blackmail, even those that have been named in the charge sheet are yet to be questioned. SIT chief Rajendra Kumar said that this is so because “the statements made by the accused are yet to be verified”. In the honey-trap scandal that came to light in Indore, highly connected women laid traps for several businessmen, politicians and officers, shot videos of them in compromising situations, and then subjected them to blackmail. The SIT seized over 4,000 smutty chats and objectionable video clips showing an unspecified number of influential persons of the state with call girls. Of these, a video of a former BJP minister and an audio chat of a retired IAS officer were leaked. An evening newspaper not only reported the leaked audio-video but uploaded them on YouTube too. Jitu Soni, a local businessman who also ran an Indore-based tabloid that had salacious bits of the scandal, paid a price for his audacity. The police demolished his office and several disputed buildings, including a notorious nightclub, that he supposedly owned. Police arrested six persons after Indore Municipal Corporation (IMC) superintending engineer Harbhajan Singh alleged in September that he was being blackmailed for Rs 3 crore with video clips that showed him in a compromising position. Of the six arrested, two women and a driver were held from Indore and three other women were arrested in Bhopal. All of them are still in judicial custody. Based on their statements and subsequent investigations, the SIT put up two separate charge sheets in Indore and Bhopal courts. The first was produced in Indore on December 16. The second charge sheet, a 155-pager, was put up on December 28 in a Bhopal court. It has created a flutter in the state’s political and bureaucratic circles. Two IAS officers, who had already paid Rs 20 lakh and Rs 1 crore, respectively, to the ransom seekers, a district Congress president, a businessman and a builder-cum-newspaper owner, figure in the charge sheet. However, many whose names are afloat in the media as suspected “victims” of the honey-trap, do not figure in it. The charge sheet has names of two journalists allegedly invo­lved in extortion of money. The charge sheet also mentioned transfer of Rs 1 crore from an IAS officer to the masterminds of the gang, Shweta Swapnil Jain and Aarti Dayal, through a journalist, but blacked out the name of the officer. It has quoted Monika Yadav, the accused-turned-approver, as saying she did not know the name of an IAS officer who was blackmailed for Rs 1 crore, but journalist Gaurav Sharma was involved in this matter and got an “equal share of Rs 33 lakh”. According to a top source in the SIT, the name of the IAS officer has been withheld because the forensic report in the case is awaited. The SIT chief said that there would be one or more supplementary charge sheets in the case. “As of now, their names are there in the statements of Yadav, which are yet to be verified and additional evidence is required to be collected,” Kumar said. Two Officers on Special Duty (OSDs), who are attached to two ministers in the Kamal Nath government, also figure in the charge sheet. They are Arun Nigam attached to food minister Pradumn Singh and Harish Khare, who is with the mining minister Pradeep Jaisawal. These OSDs were controversial and influential in the BJP government too. Khare and Nigam had gone to Dayal’s residence in June this year. They were discreetly captured in a video with Monika. One IAS officer whose name figured in the charge sheet as having paid Rs 20 lakh is additional chief secretary (ACS) PC Meena. He was transferred after a video of him went viral. However, he was not even questioned, much less made an accused. The charge sheet has mentioned journalists Veerendra Sharma of Sahara News and Gaurav Sharma, who has worked with various media organisations. They facilitated deals and also took their share. The alleged exchange of money, in one case  Rs 1 crore and the other  Rs 20 lakh in cash, took place at the flats owned by the two journalists. The masterminds of the racket, Shweta Swapnil Jain, Shweta Vijay Jain, Aarti Dayal and Monika’s friend Abhishek Singh, who lured her to come to Bhopal for studies, have been made accused in the charge sheet. They have been charged under various sub-sections of Section 370 of the IPC. The charge sheet is based on the statements given by Yadav, whom the Crime Investigation Department (CID) has named as an “approver” . Relying on Yadav’s statement, the charge sheet also named Arun Sahlot, who owns a local newspaper Raj Express, as the one who made the sex video of Meena viral. The charge sheet quotes Yadav as saying that she, along with a driver and two other accused, went to Veerendra Sharma’s flat to take money from Meena. “These people always make journalist Gaurav Sharma and Veerendra Sharma middleman, and collect money from officers through journalists,” the charge sheet mentions. Veerendra Sharma reportedly said neither has the SIT served a notice on him nor questioned him. “Just because an accused names someone, will he become an accused?” he asked. The charge sheet also mentioned that the audio and video evidence recovered from the accused have been sent for forensic examination and the results would be known only after eight to 10 months. The first charge sheet was filed in an Indore court on December 16 in connection with the FIR filed by Harbhajan Singh, that mentioned that some women were blackmailing him with obscene videos and demanding  Rs 3 crore from him. Acting on his complaint, the police arrested five women and their driver. Police produced a 400-page charge sheet against eight persons, including six women, accused of running a blackmailing racket to secure favours. It mentions that the ring managed to influence postings and transfers and wrest money from high-profile persons trapped by the women. The charges include extortion, human trafficking, fraud, conspiracy, filming obscene videos and violating privacy of individuals. Investigating officer Shashikant Chourasia submitted the charge sheet before the court of chief judicial magistrate, first-class, Amit Kumar Gupta, identifying the accused as Aarti Dayal, Monica Yadav, Shweta Vijay Jain, Shweta Swapnil Jain, Barkha Soni, Om Prakash, Rupa Ahirwar and Abhishek Thakur. Shweta Vijay Jain is accused of running the racket with the assistance of the others. Police slapped Sections 419 and 420 (pertaining to cheating), 384, 389 and 385 (extortion), 506 (criminal intimidation), 34 (common intention), 120B (criminal conspiracy), 467, 471 (forgery), 370 (1) and (3) (human trafficking), 354 C (voyeurism) of the IPC and sections 66E (violation of privacy), 67 and 67 A (publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form) of the IT Act. Police have concluded that all the accused “worked as an organised group to extort people”. They recruited women from poor backgrounds and used them to film obscene videos of wealthy or white-collar individuals, say investigators. The racketeers then used these videos to manage postings and transfers and wrest money from those caught in their trap, the charge sheet says. The charge sheet disclosed that a woman named Pooja, who was associated with Shweta Vijay Jain, had committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. She allegedly had connections with a former BJP Lok Sabha member. Seizure of documents of land deals, transfers and postings of officers and cheques worth Rs 10 crore from Aarti Dayal’s possession are also mentioned in the charge sheet. Although seizure of five diaries from Dayal’s home finds mention in the charge sheet, it is not specified whose names the diaries contained. The diaries have details of money transactions and records of land deals. A pink diary has names of those trapped by the gang in code words. The charge sheet lists 57 witnesses, including Indore SSP Ruchivardhan Mishra and SIT chief Rajendra Kumar. It includes call data analysis, a copy of the FIR, voice detection report, video statements of the accused, along with letters to government departments for tenders, transfers and postings. The two charge sheets filed in the honey-trap case have only accentuated the general cynicism that the Kamal Nath government lacks courage to act against the high and mighty, no matter how much damning evidence there might be for the SIT to go ahead.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]