India’s Biggest Honey-Trap Scandal: How Few Women Used NGOs To Amass Crores; Controlled IAS Officers, Politicians

 India’s Biggest Honey-Trap Scandal: How Few  Women Used NGOs To Amass Crores; Controlled IAS Officers, PoliticiansThe main accused in the Honey Trap Case (Pic via Manorama)

Madhya Pradesh’s (MP) honey-trap scandal has brought home the fact that organised nature of even a commonplace scam can have dangerous consequences. The midnight police raids in posh areas of Riviera Town and Minal Residency in Bhopal a few days ago unearthed what could be India’s biggest quid pro quo sex scandal.

The scandal has netted at least 12 top serving bureaucrats and eight former ministers of Madhya Pradesh, including a chief minister.

The police recovered over 4,000 files from the confiscated laptops and mobile phones containing sex-chats, pictures of government officers, politicians and other bigwigs in compromising positions.

Ironically, one of the biggest tasks at hand of the police is to stop the material from reaching the wrong hands. Reportedly, in the initial stage of the probe an inspector was shunted out after being caught transferring a video to his phone via Bluetooth, purportedly of a senior bureaucrat with an 18-year-old accused.

Who are the accused

Currently, five women and a man are in the police custody. A 48-year-old woman Shweta Vijay Jain is the alleged ring-leader.

Jain reportedly had big political ambitions and wanted to become the most powerful lobbyist in Madhya Pradesh. After failing to get a ticket for assembly elections, she turned to the business of honey-trapping. Jain recruited the rest of the four accused for the task. She has reportedly confessed to the SIT.

Congress leader Digvijay Singh claimed that Jain has strong BJP connections and was a state general secretary of BJP youth wing. On the other hand is Barkha Soni, the wife of former Congress state IT cell head Amit Soni. She is also an accused in the case.

Another accused is the namesake of the kingpin, Shweta Swapnil Jain.

Apart from these, an 18 year-old girl is also accused in the case. Hailing from Rajgarh village, the girl reportedly belongs to a poor family and is a college student. She has now turned government approver.

The fifth woman accused Aarti Dayal hails from Chhatarpur. Dayal went by the name Aarti Ahirwar till her marriage in 2012. However, the marriage fell apart and she later took the surname of her live-in partner. She also got an Aadhaar card with the same name. She also reportedly possessed several fake identity documents under different names, which the police recovered.

How the racket operated

The kingpin of the scandal Shweta Vijay Jain moved from the small town of Sagar to capital city Bhopal in order to make her dreams come true. She targeted city’s Arera Club to nab rich and powerful people in MP, including bureaucrats and politicians.

Shweta recruited college-going girls from lower middle class families to seduce the men. She has reportedly admitted to coercing at least two dozen college-girls to perform sex-acts with much older men. They were invited to a luxury hotel room and the group would then film the act and start blackmailing them.

The women used their NGOs to lure these girls. First they were shown the glamour and luxuries of a high-end lifestyle and then manipulated into sleeping with the bureaucrats and politicians. Shweta reportedly provided an Audi car to the 18-year-old accused to shuttle between Indore and Bhopal.

Latter’s father had agreed to send his daughter for education in Bhopal after Dayal convinced him that her NGO would bear all the costs.

Another girl was approached with the offer of getting her admitted into a prestigious college. Shweta took the girl to meet three secretary-level IAS officers to convince her of her connections and power.

The group reportedly used sophisticated spy cameras hidden in goggles, lipsticks to film the act, as well as normal mobile phones.

The group acquired crores of rupees, properties, cars etc through blackmail. The extortion money was routed through NGOs, and therefore, ironically, was tax-free.

The group also started acting as middle-men between the government officers and the corporate, construction companies.

Shweta also told the investigators that the main objective of the honey trap was to procure lucrative government contracts. Allegedly, several such contracts were awarded to companies owned by Shweta Jain and her aide Aarti Dayal on commission basis. Several businessmen and IAS, IPS officers were involved with the enterprises floated by the women.

The group grew quite powerful so much so that Jain said that besides procuring contracts, she was also managing postings of several IAS and IPS officers at top-of-the line assignments. The racket had been going-on for five-ten years.

How they were caught

The scam began unfolding after an Indore Municipal Corporation engineer, 60-year-old Harbhajan Singh filed a complaint alleging that two women were blackmailing him by threatening to make some objectionable videos viral. The women allegedly asked Singh to pay Rs 3 crore. He was later suspended by the Corporation.

Aarti Dayal and the 18-year-old accused were caught red-handed by the police while receiving Rs 50 lakh in the back of an SUV. Their interrogation led to the arrest of the rest of the accused. As the Police began to look at the material in their phones and laptops, a can of worms popped open.

The incident caused much sensation and an SIT was constituted to investigate the case by Congress-led state government. Bharatiya Janata Party-led opposition is demanding a CBI probe in the matter.

“It is shocking how these women have a grip over the system and how easily they operate,” said SSP Ruchi Wardhan Mishra.

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