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Sunday, Oct 02, 2022

ED raids 17 locations linked to Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren’s close aide

The raids were being conducted in a money laundering case registered against Pankaj Mishra and were spread across Sahibganj, Barhet and Rajmahal areas of Jharkhand, sources revealed,

hemant sorenFriday’s developments come at a time when Soren is facing allegations of corruption for allotting a mining lease to himself and a plot of land to his wife. (File)

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday carried out raids at 17 locations in Jharkhand that were linked to Pankaj Mishra, a close aide of state Chief Minister Hemant Soren and MLA representative for Sahibganj constituency.

Sources said the raids, which were being conducted in a fresh case of money laundering registered against Mishra, were spread across Sahibganj, Barhet and Rajmahal areas of Jharkhand. “The ED case is based on an FIR registered by Jharkhand police against Mishra. Investigations are on,” an ED official said.

Sources added that this was a separate case and the raids were not in connection with the money laundering case that the ED had registered against state Mining Secretary Pooja Singhal.

According to sources, the fresh case originates from a June 2020 complaint made by a toll tax contractor with the Badharwa police station in Sahibganj. The complaint referred to a clash and alleged assault on directions of Mishra and a minister in the Soren government.

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It further alleged that the clash was a result of a controversy over a tender for toll collection from vehicles entering Badharwa Nagar panchayat. The complainant alleged that the minister’s brother was also competing for the tender and had tried to scuttle the process by propping a dummy company that bid exorbitantly to bag the contract, only to dishonour the bid later.

Earlier this year, the ED had conducted raids at 18 locations in Jharkhand and elsewhere that were linked to Singhal in a money laundering case involving the diversion of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) funds in the state. The agency subsequently arrested her.

Friday’s developments come at a time when Soren is facing allegations of corruption for allotting a mining lease to himself and a plot of land to his wife. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has already issued a notice to Soren’s brother and state MLA Basant Soren in the mining lease issue. Basant is an MLA from Dumka. Earlier, the ECI, which is examining whether Basant’s case could lead to his disqualification as an MLA, had sent a notice to the chief minister seeking his stand on the charges against him.

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The allegations were first made at a press conference by former state chief minister and BJP leader Raghubar Das, who had also hinted at Mishra being involved in some dubious deals.

According to ED, during the raids on Singhal, which were spread across Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Punjab, various incriminating documents regarding assets and properties held by Singhal had been recovered. These included a multi-speciality hospital in Ranchi, sources said. The agency had also recovered Rs 18 crore in cash from a Ranchi-based chartered accountant’s house. ED sources said the chartered accountant was associated with Singhal.

The ED case against Singhal is based on a 2017 FIR registered by Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ranchi against Jharkhand government junior engineer Ram Binod Prasad Sinha for alleged embezzlement of public money to the tune of Rs 18.06 crore and investing the same in his own name as well as in the name of his family members while he was in service. The embezzlement is said to have occurred between 2008 and 2011.

First published on: 08-07-2022 at 10:46:28 am
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