Eleven MPs from five parties including the Congress and the BJP demanded Rs50,000 to Rs50 lakh to issue recommendation letters to promote a foreign company, according to an investigation made public on Thursday.
Six of the MPs actually gave the letters, said Aniruddha Bahal, editor of Cobrapost which did the undercover investigation code-named Operation Falcon Claw.
"Six MPs gave us letters of recommendation in favour of Mediterranean Oil Inc for sums ranging from Rs50,000 to Rs75,000," he said.
"Others wouldn't settle for less than Rs5 lakh for a letter, and one MP demanded Rs50 lakh for a letter," he said.
The investigation caught these MPs on camera saying they were ready to help the company set up shop in India.
According to Cobrapost, the MPs were from the Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Janata Dal-United and AIADMK.
They were identified as K Sugumar and C Rajendran (AIADMK), Lalu Bhai Patel, Ravindra Kumar Pandey and Hari Manjhi (BJP), Vishwa Mohan Kumar, Maheshwar Hazari and Bhudeo Chaudhary (JD-U), Khiladi Lal Bairwa and Vikrambhai Arjanbhai (Congress) and Kaiser Jahan (BSP).
None of them bothered to check the antecedents of the firm or even check if the company was real, said Bahal.
"What they hankered for was money delivered in cash. One MP even demanded that the cash be delivered through a hawala operator," he said.
Cobrapost said one of its reporters, K Ashish, approached the MPs assuming a fake identity as Ashish Jadon, representative of Mediterranean Oil Inc of Queensland in Australia.
The reporter showed the company's web site, brochure and company profile while meeting the MPs.
He introducing himself as a consultant for the company entrusted with rallying support from MPs for an oil exploration bid in northeast India.
Pegging the project cost at Rs1,000 crore, he requested the MPs to write recommendation letters, added Bahal.
These MPs mostly operate on such matters through their staff or relatives or middlemen who act as facilitators, said Bahal.
According to him, these MPs were demanding money around the same time when the National Democratic Alliance attacked the government over a proposal to bring foreign equity in retail and even stalled parliament.