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MP Honey-trap case: 15 days later no names revealed yet , SIT chiefs changed twice

Chief minister Kamal Nath has already changed the chief of the special investigative team (SIT) twice in the past 10 days, triggering talk of “political pressure”.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 03, 2019, 09.06 AM IST
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New Delhi: Fifteen days after five women were arrested in Madhya Pradesh in an alleged honeytrap scandal, none of their alleged high-profile targets have been named though the involvement of senior bureaucrats and politicians has been widely alluded to, raising political temperature in the Congress-ruled state.

Chief minister Kamal Nath has already changed the chief of the special investigative team (SIT) twice in the past 10 days, triggering talk of “political pressure”.
Meanwhile, the Indore High Court has asked the state government to respond by October 21 on whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should step in after a petitioner told the court that no names had been revealed in the matter and that influential suspects could damage the evidence. “These are five very clever women; they have confessed to blackmailing many big people,” state prosecutor Mohd Akram Sheikh said, seeking to make a case for their custody in an Indore court last week.

He got the SIT the chance to interrogate the five women together but all of them were sent to jail on Tuesday as the SIT did not press for their further custody. So is it a case of much smoke without fire or a cover-up?

THE POLITICS
Senior MP ministers Sajjan Singh Verma and Bala Bachchan have said “some big exposes” are expected soon while former CM Digvijaya Singh claimed that names of only BJP leaders were emerging in the expose. Two Congress ministers, PC Sharma and Umang Singhar, claimed the women had been prodded to target Congress MLAs in order to bring down the Congress government. BJP’s senior state leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Narottam Mishra have asked for the case to be handed to the CBI.

The BJP has also pointed to a tussle that has broken out among the brass of the MP police over the case, and hence questioned the SIT’s credibility. Director general of police VK Singh has got a “guest house” of MP police’s cyber wing shut down in Ghaziabad, a step seen to be linked to the honeytrap scandal, prompting MP’s special DG (cyber) Purushottam Sharma to say last week that Singh should not supervise the case anymore.

A clearly unpleased Kamal Nath transferred Sharma out of his post on Tuesday. THE BLACKMAIL At the centre of the scandal is an 18 year-old girl Monica Yadav whose sex tape with an Indore municipal engineer, Harbhajan Singh, blew the lid off the alleged extortion plot and led to the subsequent expose. She was arrested along with Aarti Dayal on September 19 while she was waiting for an instalment of . ₹50 lakh from Singh after making spy videos of Singh and Yadav on two occasions in Indore hotels.

Yadav spilt the beans on three other women – Shweta Vijay Jain, Shweta Swapnil Jain and Barkha Bhatnagar – who stayed in upscale localities of Indore and masterminded the extortion racket. But Yadav has also become a key witness for the SIT as a “victim: in another case lodged by her father on charges of human trafficking.

The high-profile targets of the gang, if exposed, could be implicated in this case or a separate case of corruption as the SIT has told the court that the “honeytrap gang” interfered in the process of tenders, contracts and transfers by blackmailing bureaucrats and politicians. The SIT has told the court that money was received by hawala and that it has pen drives and hard discs with videos and names in their possession.

THE DRAMA
Stories have been doing the rounds about how the arrested women used to move in high-end luxury cars in the garb of running a non-governmental organisation and frequented the power corridors of Bhopal and Indore, and that one of them is close to BJP as she was on the district juvenile welfare committee for eight years under the BJP government while another woman’s husband worked earlier with the state Congress.

One of the accused women attempted suicide by slitting her wrist when police was recovering a hard drive and pen drive from her house while another woman claimed during interrogation that she was pregnant and fainted to be rushed to hospital multiple times – before it was ruled that she was not pregnant. Fifteen days later, their targets remain unnamed while speculation has grown manifold.

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