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Hemant Soren refused to receive arrest order; has 'illegal possession' of a dozen Ranchi plots: ED

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Ranchi/New Delhi, Feb 1 (PTI) JMM leader Hemant Soren was informed about his arrest at about 5 pm last evening but he was "reluctant" to receive the order as he first wanted to submit his resignation from the chief minister's post, the Enforcement Directorate claimed on Thursday.

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It also alleged that a dozen land parcels in Ranchi measuring about 8.5 acres in total are in "illegal possession, occupation and use" of the JMM leader and are proceeds of crime under the anti-money laundering law.

"He (Soren) was informed about his arrest at around 5 pm. However, he was reluctant to receive the orders before he tendered his resignation from the post of chief minister to the Hon'ble Governor, Jharkhand," the central agency informed a special PMLA court while seeking his custody.

The agency said in its arrest order that Soren was allowed to inform his wife Kalpana Soren about his arrest at 5 pm.

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The court on Thursday sent Soren to judicial custody for a day. The ED had sought a 10-day custody.

The agency alleged, in the remand note accessed by PTI, that Soren left for the Governor House (Raj Bhavan) without consent and without completing the ongoing proceedings." "The written grounds of arrest could be served to him at 10 pm," the ED told the court.

During his personal search, the former CM "refused to remove" a religious locket and ring he was wearing.

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News TV channels played visuals of two minibuses entering the CM's official residence at Kanke Road on Wednesday and later Soren and his MLAs reaching the Raj Bhavan.

Soren was arrested by the ED on Wednesday at 10 pm from the Raj Bhavan after he resigned as the CM. The agency had questioned him for over seven hours during the day.

The JMM leader filed a plea before the Supreme Court in Delhi on Thursday challenging his arrest.

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The criminal case filed by the federal agency against the 48-year-Jharkhand Mukfti Morcha (JMM) leader emerges from a June 2023 ECIR (ED term for FIR) following raids in April conducted against state government employee and revenue department Sub-Inspector Bhanu Pratap Prasad at various locations in the state.

The agency, according to official records, recovered 11 trunks holding voluminous property documents from Prasad's premises along with 17 original registers.

Prasad was a custodian of many original registers of land records and their ownership details of the state, the ED claimed.

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It alleged that Prasad was "involved in the corrupt practices which included falsification of original records and had been a party with several other persons in their activities linked to the acquisition of landed properties in a fraudulent manner".

The ED shared this information with the Jharkhand government which registered a police FIR against Prasad at the Sadar police station in Ranchi on June 1, 2023. The central agency took cognisance of this FIR to file its ECIR on June 26, 2023.

Prasad, the ED claimed, was "actively involved in hatching conspiracies with other persons to acquire and conceal various properties in an illegal manner including the properties which are illegally acquired and possessed by Shri Hemant Soren." These details were also recovered from the mobile phone of Prasad, it said.

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Prasad, the ED said, had himself conducted physical verification of the land "on instruction which was passed on to him from CMO through the circle officer", it said.

The agency, explaining the grounds of arrest, said it recorded statements of several persons under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and this exercise "established" that 12 landed properties, situated next to each other, and measuring 8.5 acres in total, were under "illegal acquisition, possession and use of Soren and this has been kept concealed by him (Soren)".

It said a survey was conducted on these land plots that "established that the land is in illegal possession, occupation and use of Soren".

The agency charged that Soren "knowingly indulges in such processes (illegal acquisition of land) and activities by which he has acquired numerous landed properties in his name as well as in the name of the family members." Several summonses were issued to Soren for seeking his explanation in this matter, but most of the time he did not appear which proves that he was "deliberately evading investigation", the ED claimed.

Soren, on his part, contended that the land fell under the Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act and it "cannot be transferred" and the special regulation officer in Ranchi had restored the possession of the land back to its original owner on January 29.

He also asserted that documents recovered from someone's phone cannot be taken as "gospel truth" to implicate and arrest him.

The ED said it searched the residential premises of Soren in Delhi and seized Rs 36,34,500 cash from the cupboard of a room "under the use and occupation of Soren".

The agency claimed to have also seized some documents linked to this investigation from the house.

It said the 8.5-acre asset was a "proceeds of crime" which was in "unauthorised and illegal possession and use" of Soren.

Soren, it said, "knowingly was a party along with Bhanu Pratap Prasad and others in the activities connected with concealment of original records for projecting the property acquired by him in an illegal manner as an untainted property." It added Soren was "still enjoying" the said proceeds of crime and hence was guilty of the offence of money laundering as per section 3 of PMLA". PTI NES RT RT

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