Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Babubhai Katara, arrested for allegedly trying to smuggle people abroad, has told the police that he was paid Rs 800,000 for every person he helped to go abroad illegally, with his aide and travel agents pocketing most of the money made in the deals.
"I was given only Rs 800,000. I really don't know if they charged Rs 3 or 4 million for sending people abroad with me," Katara told officers interrogating him.
He stated this when confronted with statements of his aide Rajender Gampa and some travel agents that they used to charge Rs 3 to 4 million from each person who flew abroad in the company of the MP on the latter's family's passports.
Police say they have evidence that Katara and his associates were involved in flying out at least 12 people to the US and Britain. The Gujarat politician had personally taken six people with him.
"They have fooled me," a police official quoted the MP as telling investigators during interrogation.
"Though he was paid a handsome amount, it were the agents and others involved in the human trafficking racket who arranged for the passports and clients and so took a larger share of the booty," a senior police official told.
"Our investigations show that these travel agents were in some kind of agreement with the MPs and paid them a fixed amount every time they smuggled out a client abroad. Katara was given Rs 800,000. The rest of the money was distributed among the MP's aides and agents," the officer added.
Katara, who had reportedly earned around Rs 3.5 million through human trafficking, was apparently not aware that Sunder Lal Yadav, a travel agent, earned more than him simply by arranging the clients and documents.
The investigating officer also revealed that travel agents identified people who could cough up Rs 3 million to travel abroad. The agents had a wide and well-organised network spread through the small towns and cities in Punjab to the big cities in Andhra Pradesh.
The Crime Branch of Delhi Police, which is conducting the investigation, has identified five travel agents involved in the racket. Three are from Punjab (Joginder Singh, Santhu Masih and Harbhajan Singh), Hyderabad and New Delhi.
The racket came to light on April 18 when Katara was arrested at the airport in New Delhi while trying to fly out a woman, Paramjeet Kaur, and a 15-year-old boy Amarjeet Singh on the passports of his wife and son.
Police later arrested Gampa, Sunder Lal Yadav and their female accomplice Kiran Dhar on charges of forging documents and passports. Yadav was charged with arranging the visas.
Kiran allegedly taught women flying abroad how to act like an MP's wife - and how to conduct before immigration officers.
Yadav told a court in New Delhi that three Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MPs from Uttar Pradesh - Mitrasen Yadav, Ashok Rawat and Mohammed Tahir Khan - and Ramswaroop Koli of BJP from Rajasthan were also involved in the racket.
And Gampa told the court that Katara as well Mitrasen Yadav and Ashok Rawat knew that he was using their letterheads to help people immigrate illegally.