With the honey-trap and blackmailing racket creating ripples in Madhya Pradesh, ever since it was busted in mid-September, The Quint has learnt the names of five BJP and RSS leaders, along with one Congress leader, and eight IAS and IPS officers (some of them serving), whose videos have been recovered by the police.
Several other high-profile names have also surfaced during the questioning of the accused, Shweta Vijay Jain and Aarti Dayal, which are also being probed.
Five women and a man were arrested in Indore and Bhopal on 18 and 19 September, for allegedly running the racket, after an Indore Municipal Corporation engineer approached the police claiming he was being blackmailed to the tune of Rs 3 crore over objectionable video clips by the accused.
Apart from Jain (39) and Dayal (28), the other accused identified by the police are Monika Yadav (18), Shweta Swapnil Jain (48), Barkha Soni (34) and Omprakash Kori (45).
Speaking about the modus operandi of the case, Indore Senior Superintendent of Police Ruchi Vardhan Misra – the second-in-command of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case – also admitted to the involvement of several high-profile people.
“The modus operandi of the gang was to get in touch with politicians, bureaucrats and IPS officers, secretly make their videos through spy cam or mobile phones and, later on, blackmail them for money and other favours. We have found several sex videos on the hard disk and phones seized during the raid at the premises of the accused. The matter is under investigation.”Ruchi Vardhan Misra, SSP Indore, to The Quint
Misra further said that not much can be divulged to the media at the moment, as it might alert those who were involved in the scandal. But, since some of these high-profile people are still holding office, isn’t the entire system at risk of being ‘compromised’?
Several mobile phones, hard disks and pen drives have been seized from the accused and sent for forensic tests.
Efforts Being Made to Protect Officers' Names
With the names of some IAS and IPS officers having surfaced, The Quint has found that efforts are being made to protect some of them.
“I was asked to remove names of a few IPS officers by my seniors from the case. I don’t how many names and videos will be removed by the time the probe is concluded,” a police officer said.
It was revealed that a few bureaucrats from Chhattisgarh are also involved in the matter. The gang behind the whole scandal was reportedly headed by Jain.
Meanwhile, except for Yadav, the other accused women reportedly ran NGOs which became a platform to lure innocent girls with the promise of jobs, but ultimately trapped them in the scandal.
“I can assure you that if the SIT conducts a fair investigation, then the system will collapse because many serving IPS and IAS (officers) will get suspended. The police has been probing the matter for almost two weeks now... why hasn’t it exposed other high-profile names? The gang and the high-profile people have compromised the entire system in Madhya Pradesh.”MP Police officer to The Quint
Was the Complainant Blackmailed or Pressurised to File an FIR?
Was the honey-trap case busted because of the complaint filed by suspended Indore Municipal Corporation engineer Harbhajan Singh? Or was he pressurised and used as a tool in one of the biggest sex scandals in the state?
Sources close to the investigation have confirmed to The Quint that the complainant had been in a relationship with the mastermind of the gang, Jain, since 2008.
In 2017, Jain introduced Singh to the second-most important player of the gang, Dayal. Singh is also seen in a compromising position with Dayal in a video, sources said.
This raises a pertinent question: If Singh had had a relationship with both Dayal and Jain for years, then why was he blackmailed by them now? And why hasn’t Singh spoken about how he got in touch with both the women in the FIR?
The Quint has also accessed the details of the statements given by Dayal and Jain to the police.
In her statement, Jain had confirmed that since 2008, Singh had helped her and her brother in pocketing several government contracts pertaining to infrastructure in Madhya Pradesh.
She also said that Dayal, Singh and her had met in a hotel just a few days before the complaint was filed with the police, on 17 September, and that till that meeting, there had been no issues between them.
So, what transpired between this meeting and 17 September that made Singh file the complaint?
MP Police Aware of Sex Scandal for Months
In July 2019, a sex video of an MP-cadre IAS officer from Bhopal had gone viral. As per reports, the IAS officer was suspended by the government and an inquiry was also conducted by the police.
However, no FIR was registered against the officer due to lack of a complaint. According to sources, the woman who was seen in the video with the IAS officer belonged to Jain's gang.
The Quint also learnt that while investigating the case, the police had kept several mobile phone numbers under surveillance, including that of Singh’s. His phone number came under the police's radar because of his connection to the gang.
“During the sex video tape probe, some senior officers could sense involvement of several high-profile people in the scandal. But to bust the scandal, a complaint was required. Hence, Singh was pressurised to file a complaint by an authority.”Senior police officer
But who approached Singh and on whose orders?
The police has already recorded Singh’s statement before the magistrate, under Section 164 of the CrPC. They have also made one of the accused in the case, Yadav, an approver, with her statement being recorded before the magistrate.
She has alleged that another accused in the case – Dayal – had promised to help her with further studies and a job. Based on a complaint by Yadav's father, the police has also registered a separate FIR under human trafficking.