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ED uses fridge, smart TV invoices as evidence against Soren

By Neelabh Srivastava
April 07, 2024 20:19 IST
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Invoices of a refrigerator and smart TV are among the evidence the Enforcement Directorate used to support its claim that Jharkhand's ex-chief minister Hemant Soren acquired 8.86 acres of land worth more than Rs 31 crore illegally.

IMAGE: Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren greets his supporters while being brought to a civil court in Ranchi. Photograph: ANI Photo

The federal probe agency obtained these receipts from two Ranchi-based dealers and attached those to its charge sheet filed against the 48-year-old Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader and four others last month.

The special PMLA court of Judge Rajiv Ranjan in Ranchi took cognisance of the prosecution complaint on April 4.

Soren was arrested by the ED on January 31 in a money laundering case related to the alleged land grab, shortly after he resigned as chief minister. He is currently in judicial custody in Birsa Munda jail at Hotwar in Ranchi.

According to the ED, the two gadgets were purchased in the name of the family members of one Santosh Munda who told the agency that he has been "residing as a caretaker of the property of Hemant Soren on the said land (8.86 acres) for 14 to 15 years".


The agency used Munda's statement to counter Soren's claim that he had no link with the said land. The ED also rejected the claim of a person named Rajkumar Pahan on the piece of land, alleging that he was a "front" for Soren to keep the asset under his control.

The ED claimed that soon after Soren was issued the first summons in this case in August last year, Pahan wrote to the deputy commissioner of Ranchi stating he and some others have the land in possession and the earlier mutation in the name of other owners be cancelled and they may be saved from being evicted from their property.

The state government "restored" the land to Pahan on January 29, two days before Soren's arrest, so that the JMM leader's control and possession remained "unimpeded," the ED alleged.

According to the federal probe agency, the land was originally a 'Bhuinhari' property that cannot be transferred or sold to anyone under general situations and 'Mundas' and 'Pahans' were the owners of such land assets.

The immovable asset was later sold to some persons by the original allottees but Soren got them "evicted" and gained control of the land in 2010-11, the ED claimed.

Santosh Munda also told the ED that Hemant Soren and his wife Kalpana visited the land "two to three times" and that he worked as a labourer when a boundary wall was being erected at the plot.

The ED claims Munda was entrusted the charge of the property's caretaker at the behest of Soren, apart from another accused in the case Hilariyas Kachhap who got an electricity meter installed there.

A refrigerator was purchased in February 2017 in the name of Munda's son while a smart TV was purchased in November 2022 in the name of his daughter at the address where the land is located in Ranchi, the agency said.

Thus, the ED said, it is "established" that Santosh Munda and his family were residing at this property and it was not in possession of the accused person Rajkumar Pahan.

"Rajkumar Pahan is acting as a frontman of Hemant Soren so that the property can somehow be shown to be in possession of Pahan and his family members and the evidence against Soren can be frustrated and the proceeds of crime can be kept concealed," the agency claimed.

The ED has listed these two bills as evidence and attached them with the charge sheet under the 'relied upon documents' category as it sought prosecution of Soren and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Soren, Rajkumar Pahan, Hilariyas Kachhap, Bhanu Pratap Prasad and Binod Singh have been named as accused in the 191-page charge sheet. The piece of land -- 12 adjacent plots guarded by a cemented wall -- has also been attached by the ED on March 30 and it is valued at over Rs 31.07 crore.

The agency stumbled upon this case of alleged land grab while probing another money laundering case of 2022 where a 4.55-acre land of the defence ministry at Morabadi in Ranchi was "acquired fraudulently".

According to the ED, the probe found that "a group of some private persons in connivance with government officials including the ex-DC Ranchi, Chhavi Ranjan, and Bhanu Pratap Prasad (sub-inspector of Jharkhand government revenue department) were part of a land-grabbing syndicate."

"They were involved in corrupt practices which included acquiring properties based on false deeds, falsification of government records, tampering with original revenue documents etc, to facilitate private persons to acquire landed properties fraudulently," it said.

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Neelabh Srivastava
Source: PTI  -  Edited By: Hemant Waje© Copyright 2024 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.