ED makes fresh arrest in money laundering case against Hemant Soren

In a related development, the ED on Wednesday informed the Jharkhand High Court that Soren was instrumental in illegally occupying land in the Bargain area of Ranchi.

Ranchi: The Enforcement Directorate has arrested an alleged broker in connection with a land grab-linked money laundering case against former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren and some others, official sources said.

According to them, 39-year-old Shekhar Prasad Mahto alias Sehkhar Kushwaha was arrested on Wednesday under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after his interrogation at the federal agency’s zonal office here.

Mahto is alleged to have “connived” with the prime accused in this case and former revenue department sub-inspector Bhanu Pratap Prasad in preparing a “fake” deed and “tampering” government records to “acquire” a 4.83-acre land, valued at Rs 22.61 crore, in Ranchi.

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The agency alleged that the man was “knowingly involved in the processes and activities connected with proceeds of crime (in the form of land and money) which are derived from illegal activities i.e. preparation of fake deeds, committing forgery, falsification and tampering with government records”.

It claimed that Mahto was “involved in a big conspiracy wherein huge proceeds of crime” were involved.

The ED produced Mahto before a special PMLA court here on Thursday and informed the judge that the accused’s custody was required “to ascertain the proceeds of crime used and generated out of the said activities and to find the trail of proceeds of crime involved in the present case”.

The probe agency added that it wanted Mahto’s remand to “identify” the other beneficiaries of these activities.

More than 25 people, including Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader Hemant Soren, IAS officer and former Ranchi deputy commissioner Chhavi Ranjan, Bhanu Pratap Prasad and others have been arrested by the ED as part of this investigation.

Land parcels worth Rs 266 crore, including a clutch of plots spread across 8.86 acres in the Bargain area of Ranchi acquired “illegally” by Soren, have been attached by the agency till now and four charge sheets have been filed.

The latest supplementary chargesheet was filed on June 7 before a special court here, according to official sources.

In a related development, the ED on Wednesday informed the Jharkhand High Court that Soren was instrumental in illegally occupying land in the Bargain area of Ranchi.

Soren (48), who is also the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) executive president, had filed a petition before the high court on May 27, seeking bail in a money-laundering case linked to an alleged land scam.

He has strongly denied land-grabbing charges, saying the money laundering case was foisted against him by the BJP-led Central government as part of a political vendetta. Soren was arrested by the ED on January 31 from the Ranchi Raj Bhavan, minutes after he resigned as chief minister.

“A racket of land mafia is active in Jharkhand which is involved in tampering the land records in Ranchi and Kolkata. Original land records of ownerships are either tampered or concealed to facilitate unlawful acquisition/possession/use of landed properties,” the ED had claimed.

Based on forged records, such land parcels are sold to other persons, it had said.

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