Hemant Soren wanted to build banquet hall on illegal land, alleges probe agency

2 weeks ago 18

The Enforcement Directorate has alleged that former Jharkhand Chief Minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) executive president Hemant Soren intended to utilise the "illegally possessed land" for the construction of a banquet hall.

A special PMLA court on Monday extended the Enforcement Directorate remand of Hemant Soren by three days till February 15 in a money laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

In its remand application submitted in court, the probe agency revealed crucial WhatsApp chats between Hemant Soren and his close associate Binod Singh which are highly incriminating and contain details of several such "illegal properties".

According to the Enforcement Directorate, a detailed examination of the WhatsApp exchanges exposed a map outlining the proposed banquet hall, shared by Binod Singh with Hemant Soren on April 6, 2023.

Notably, the location specified in the plan corresponds to an 8.5-acre parcel of land currently under investigation for illegal acquisition, allegedly in Soren's possession.

The probe agency conducted a survey on February 10 confirming the alignment between the proposed banquet site and the contested land. Officials present during the survey asserted that there was no other sizeable plot available in the vicinity suitable for such construction.

When India Today visited the said land, locals, speaking anonymously, acknowledged Soren's ownership, while a labourer involved in earlier boundary work claimed the land belonged to someone else.

"We always knew this land belonged to Pahan. Last year, officers used to come for surveys. Enforcement Directorate officers once came and questioned my son about the land. We only recently got to know that the land belongs to Hemant Soren," one of the locals said.

ENFORCEMENT DIRECTORATE INVESTIGATION

Bhanu Pratap Prasad, a revenue sub-inspector, was part of a syndicate involved in acquiring properties forcefully and through false deeds, the probe agency investigation revealed.

In February 2023, a survey at the Circle Office in Ranchi revealed falsification and tampering in the registers maintained by Bhanu Pratap Prasad. Later, a search resulted in the seizure of 11 trunks of property documents and 17 original registers.

Prasad, along with six members of the land-grabbing syndicate, was arrested in April 2023.

The probe agency alleged that Prasad was actively involved in conspiracies to acquire properties illegally, including with Hemant Soren. They seized Prasad's mobile phone, revealing chats and information related to cash transactions, illegal benefits, and an image containing a list of properties, approximately 8.5 acres, linked to Soren.

According to the Enforcement Directorate, the survey conducted under section 16 of PMLA, 2002, confirmed the illegal possession of the said property by Hemant Soren. The seized registers, concealed by Prasad, indicated a pattern of acquiring and disposing of properties illegally.

Furthermore, the probe agency alleged that Soren knowingly indulged in the process connected with acquisition, possession, and use of proceeds of crime.

Hemant Soren's Enforcement Directorate custody was extended till February 15 after he was on February 7 remanded to five days of custody by the special PMLA (the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) court.

Soren on reaching the PMLA court, waved at his supporters, who raised slogans such as 'Hemant Soren Zindabad'.

The JMM chief was arrested on January 31 after a seven-hour grilling by the central agency in the money laundering case. Soren resigned as Jharkhand Chief Minister before his arrest.

Searches at Soren's Delhi residence uncovered a significant amount of cash, leading to his arrest under Section 19 of the PMLA, 2002.

Published By:

Sahil Sinha

Published On:

Feb 12, 2024

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