Jharkhand Chief Minister's Aide Arrested In Money Laundering Case

Pankaj Mishra is expected to be produced before a Ranchi court on Wednesday, where the ED will seek his custody.

Jharkhand Chief Minister's Aide Arrested In Money Laundering Case

Enforcement Directorate arrested Pankaj Mishra, aide of Jharkhand Chief Minister. (Representational)

Ranchi:

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) arrested Pankaj Mishra, a political aide of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, on Tuesday in connection with a money-laundering probe linked to alleged illegal mining in the state, officials said.

They said Pankaj Mishra was arrested under the criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), adding that he was "evasive in his replies" during questioning.

Pankaj Mishra is expected to be produced before a Ranchi court on Wednesday, where the ED will seek his custody.

The federal probe agency had raided at least 19 locations in Sahibganj, Barhet, Rajmahal, Mirza Chauki and Barharwa in Jharkhand on July 8 as part of the probe against Pankaj Mishra linked to alleged irregularities in the operation of toll plaza tenders and instances of illegal mining in the state.

After the raids, the ED had frozen deposits of Rs 11.88 crore lying in 37 bank accounts belonging to Pankaj Mishra and Dahoo Yadav, a person linked to him.

Apart from this, "unaccounted" cash amounting to Rs 5.34 crore was also seized by the agency, which claimed that the money was linked to "illegal mining" in Jharkhand.

Five stone crushers that were being "illegally" operated and an equal number of "illegal firearm cartridges" were also seized by the ED.

"The evidence collected during the course of the investigation, including the statements of various persons, digital evidence and documents, revealed that the seized cash/bank balance is derived from illegal mining being rampantly done in the Sahibganj area including the forest area," the ED said.

The agency said it was probing a trail of Rs 100 crore of "proceeds of crime" generated from illegal mining operations in the state.

It had recently stated that cash amounting to more than Rs 36 crore, linked to "illegal mining" in Jharkhand, was seized by its teams over the last more than two months as part of two separate money-laundering investigations.

The second instance where cash linked to alleged illegal mining in the state was unearthed pertains to the ED action against suspended Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Pooja Singhal in May.

Apart from the 2000-batch IAS officer, her businessman husband, a chartered accountant linked to the couple and others were raided by the ED as part of a money-laundering probe linked to a case of alleged corruption in the MGNREGA scheme.

Pooja Singhal, who was holding the charge of Jharkhand mining secretary, was suspended by the state government following her arrest by the ED.

Suman Kumar, a chartered accountant linked to Singhal and her husband, was also arrested by the agency and cash amounting to Rs 19.76 crore was seized by it.

A chargesheet against Pooja Singhal and others was filed by the agency before a special PMLA court in Ranchi this month.

"Evidence collected during the course of the investigation (against Singhal and others), including those collected during the searches and statements of various persons, revealed that the major chunk of the seized cash was derived from illegal mining and it belonged to senior bureaucrats and politicians," the ED had said.

The total cash seizure in the two cases linked to "illegal" mining in Jharkhand stands at Rs 36.98 crore, the agency said.

The ED action comes at a time when Hemant Soren is embroiled in a case of owning a mining lease in the state.

The Election Commission (EC) is hearing the case as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has sought Hemant Soren's disqualification as an MLA under the electoral law.

Following a reference from the Jharkhand governor, the EC had, in May, issued a notice to the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader under section 9A of the Representation of the People Act as it is alleged that owning the lease violates this law.

Hemant Soren's legal team, however, has maintained that section 9A of the Act does not apply to the case and cited a Supreme Court ruling.

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