Indian investigative news website Cobrapost, in a sting operation, has unearthed a scam involving members of parliament who were allegedly willing to promote a company in exchange for money.
The sting on camera, codenamed “Falcon Claw” showed at least 11 members of parliament across various parties asking for fee ranging from Rs 50,000 ($804) to Rs 50 lakh ($80476) to promote a company, created on paper by the news website, according to media reports on Friday.
Of the 11 members of parliament, two are with the Congress, three with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, three belonged to the Janata Dal (United), two to regional party All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and one to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
They purportedly told the Cobrapost sting team their willingness to also lobby for foreign companies that were interested in oil exploration and rigging rights in India’s north-east, reports said.
Cobrapost editor Aniruddha Bahal told a television news channel that they approached the MPs after first doing their homework and preliminary groundwork. He also pointed out that they worked through middlemen.
Reports quoting Bahal claimed that the MPs did not bother even to cross-check the veracity of the company they had agreed to promote, the so-called Mediterranean Oil Inc. of Queensland, Australia. The Cobrapost reporter K Ashish claimed to be Mediterranean’s consultant.
Reacting to the sting, one of the 11 MPs Maheshwar Hazari of the JD(U) was quoted by the Indian Express newspaper as saying, “It is a political conspiracy. I have not received any money, nor given any letter.”
K Sugumar of the AIADMK reportedly claimed he got no money. “They came to me through my PA and I issued a letter but did not get any money,” Express quoted him saying.
The Cobrapost investigation resembles its earlier sting that exposed the cash-for-questions scam resulting in 11 MPs being expelled from parliament.
In the sting conducted in December 2005, the MPs were caught on camera accepting bribes for raising and tabling questions in parliament.