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Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren Arrested By ED In Money Laundering Case

Hemant Soren has submitted his resignation to the Governor and Champai Soren has been named the new Chief Minister

Mumbai: Jharkhand ex-CM Hemant Soren was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering case on Wednesday. He was questioned by the probe agency for over seven hours in an alleged land fraud case.

Hemant Soren has submitted his resignation to the Governor and Champai Soren has been named the new Chief Minister.

The development comes two days after the federal agency staged an extensive operation in Delhi to apprehend the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief by stationing teams at his residence and airport, but he managed to flee to Ranchi by road on Tuesday.

An official confirmed the development, saying they have evidence that he is the key beneficiary in the alleged land-related irregularities in Ranchi, where a network of brokers and businessmen worked over the years to create fake deeds of landed parcels by forging records in registrar offices and then selling them off.

“We have evidence that Hemant Soren grabbed some parcel of land under investigation in Jharkhand, which was illegally obtained by others through falsified documents,” claimed an official who declined to be identified.

Amit Kumar Agarwal, a Kolkata-based businessman arrested by the ED on June 7 last year, is also linked to Soren’s arrest because he is suspected of handling tainted funds for several politicians, including the then-Jharkhand Chief Minister, according to a PIL filed in the Jharkhand High Court in 2021 through a lawyer, Rajeev Kumar.

He had dodged inquiry by the ED on at least seven occasions since August of last year, but finally accepted to be questioned on January 20 at his Ranchi property. However, the agency again requested that he appear before it on January 29 or 31.

The ED team arrived at his official residence in the state capital on Wednesday and questioned him for over seven hours before arresting him at about 10 p.m. at the agency’s Ranchi headquarters after the JMM leader presented his resignation to the governor.

Officials said he will be produced before a court on Thursday, where the agency will explain the exact charges against him.

On June 12, 2023, the ED filed a charge sheet in the alleged land scam, naming Amit Agarwal, arrested Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) Chhavi Ranjan, and eight other individuals – Dilip Kumar Ghosh (a close aide of Agarwal), Pradip Bagchi, Afshar Ali (alleged kingpin who created fake deeds on landed properties), Mohammad Saddam Hussain, Imtiaz Ahmad, Talha Khan, Faiyaz Ahmed, Bhanu Pratap Prasad, and three companies linked to Agarwal – Jagatbandhu Tea Estates Pv

The accused are accused of usurping prime landed parcels, including a 4.55 acre defense land at Morabadi Mouza in Ranchi and a 7.6 acre land parcel at Hehal in Ranchi, valued at over ₹74 crore at the current market price. They used fake deeds and falsified original land records at Circle Offices and Registrar of Assurances (RoA) in Kolkata and Circle Offices in Jharkhand.

Overall, the ED has recovered documents linked to at least 27 properties for which the accused persons fabricated bogus deeds.

Previously, landed properties in Bihar (including Jharkhand) were registered at Kolkata’s Registrar of Assurances (RoA) office. This persisted until 1991, when the registration of Bihar properties, including present-day Jharkhand, became necessary at the relevant jurisdictional land registration offices.

An unnamed ED official described the method of operation as follows: “The accused persons fabricated back-dated deeds of the targeted landed properties from Kolkata and inserted them in authentic records at RoA, Kolkata. They would then obtain certified copies of those deeds and dispose of the properties in concert with one another. They used bogus stamps and seals to manufacture these fake deeds.”

According to the ED, the 4.55 acres (or decimals) of land in Ranchi that was sold off using fraudulent paperwork belonged to the defence.According to the ED charge sheet, Afshar Ali, a resident of Bariatu, Ranchi, and his accomplices created a fraudulent document in the name of Prafulla Bagchi from the RoA office in Kolkata, claiming ownership of a 4.55-acre land.

Prem Prakash, an accused in the ED’s separate probe into illegal mining in Jharkhand who is said to be politically connected, allegedly assisted them in the illegal act, while Chhavi Ranjan (former deputy commissioner of Ranchi) influenced Circle Office officials and the district sub registrar in Ranchi to obtain a favorable report for Pradeep Bagchi. In 2022, Amit Agarwal’s company, Jagatbandhu Tea Estates Pvt Ltd, paid ₹25 lakh to acquire the land. The property has a commercial value of approximately ₹41 crore, according to the ED.

Afshar Ali revealed to the ED that he had generated a false deed for the Army’s property. Prem Prakash helped sell the land to Jagatbandhu Tea Estates for ₹7 crore, but only ₹25 lakh was paid. He further stated that no government official asked money for the property’s registration since they were aware that Amit Agarwal, Prem Prakash, and Chhavi Ranjan were involved, according to the charge sheet.

Jayant Karnad also claimed the property and used bogus paperwork to sell it to 14 individuals for ₹2.55 crore using 16 sale deeds.

In the case of Hehal property too, a fake deed was prepared by brokers and original deeds were torn and removed from the original registers of the district sub registrar, Ranchi office. Chhavi Ranjan cancelled the Jamabandi (record of rights) of this land and allowed the mutation of this property in the name of one person, Binod Singh. Immediately, it was sold to two persons – Shyam Singh and Ravi Singh Bhatia – at a consideration price of ₹15 crore, ED charge sheet reveals.

The agency didn’t disclose if Soren grabbed the 4.55 acre land linked to Amit Agarwal or the 7.6 acre land sold to Shyam Singh and Ravi Bhatia.

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