Ahead of appearing before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with a money laundering probe involving mining case, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren described that the allegations are baseless and the way in which a Chief Minister has been summoned was completely inappropriate.
Before leaving from his residence for ED office, Soren, who is also the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader addressed the media and said that this is beyond his understanding how the scam figure of Rs 1,000 crore was arrived at
“The allegations are not possible at all,” he said.
Taking a pot shot at the ED, which summoned him for the second time, Soren said, “I hold a constitutional post as Chief Minister. But the way the probe is going, the way I’m summoned, it’s like they think I am the kind of person who would flee the country.”
“I can’t remember anyone other than big businessmen having fled the country. No politician has fled like that. This is a conspiracy,” he said, addressing his supporters before going to the ED office.
Earlier Soren had failed to appear on November 3 in the Sahebganj tender scam case. The ED then summoned him for questioning on November 17.
The Chief Minister also pointed out the prospect of his disqualification as an MLA for allegedly awarding himself a mining contract based on BJP’s complaint to the Election Commission. He demanded that Governor Ramesh Bais should announce his decision quickly.
The commission is learnt to have recommended that Soren be stripped of his assembly membership.
“The Governor has said he has sought a ‘second opinion’. But we have asked the Election Commission, and we have been told there is no such opinion sought,” he said.
Launching an attack, Soren said that after Governor’s statement came and the ED sent the summon, raids are being conducted on MLAs.
He further said that the allegations against him are “baseless”.
“During my tenure the revenue of the state has increased and during the BJP’s tenure there was a revenue loss…The confidence in the government has increased…I think Democracy should be respected…I am going to the ED office,” the JMM leader said.
He said there have been attempts to unseat him since the JMM-Congress won the election in 2019: “The conspirators were working like a submarine, too scared to come up. But that submarine is now being brought to the surface.”
The ED has earlier arrested Soren’s political aide Pankaj Mishra and two others Bachhu Yadav and Prem Prakash in the case.
The ED had said that it has “identified” Rs 1,000 crore as “proceeds of crime relating to illegal mining”.
Citing the figures of his government, Soren said that sand, stones and coal should be considered as minor minerals.
He also said that he has written a letter to the ED and he welcomes an honest attempt of any agency as he is committed to end the illegal mining in the mineral rich eastern state.
He said that under his government, in stone mining, the royalty increased from Rs 270 crore to Rs 360 crore. “But ED says that there has been an illegal mining of Rs 1,000 crore in Sahebganj,” he said, adding that to come to the figures of Rs 1,000 crore, 8 crore metric tons of stone need to be mined, which is four times the legally mined quantity.
He also said that to transport such voluminous amount of coal, about 20,000 railway racks and 33 lakh trucks would be needed and it is practically impossible to do so.
The Chief Minister also alleged that there have been attempts to unseat him since the JMM-Congress won the election in 2019:
“The conspirators were working like a submarine, too scared to come up. But that submarine is now being brought to the surface,” he said.
The ED has filed a chargesheet before a special Ranchi court against Pankaj Mishra, a political aide of Soren, and two others — local muscleman Bachhu Yadav and Prem Prakash — in the case.
The ED is probing the money laundering case in the Sahabganj mining tender scam case and has arrested several persons in the case.
An ED source said that the agency would question the Chief Minister about the illegal mining tender case and about some banking documents that it recovered during searches from the premises of Mishra.
The source said that the agency had recovered several banking transaction details, passbooks and cheques with mention of Soren and others from the premises of Mishra.
The ED had earlier questioned several people in connection with the case and also arrested Mishra, who is MLA representative of Jharkhand CM, after questioning him for over eight hours in July this year.
The ED had also searched the premises of Prem Prakash, an accused in the illegal tender scam case.
The ED also during questioning of Mishra, Prakash and another person Ravi Kejriwal had got the links of Soren.
The ED had also questioned Abhishek Prasad aka Pintu, press advisor to Soren in connection with the case on multiple occasions.
Earlier, the ED said in a statement that they had seized an inland vessel as part of the ongoing investigation, which was allegedly being operated without a permit from Sukargarh Ghat in Sahebganj.
The ED said Bachu Yadav alias Dahu Yadav operated it in “collusion” with Mishra and others, for transporting mined stone chips or stone boulders. The ED put the estimated cost of the vessel at Rs 30 crore, taking the total proceeds of this alleged scam past the Rs 100 crore mark.
Soren has been summoned months after the Election Commission of India (EC) in August sent a report to Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bias ostensibly recommending his disqualification as a member of the assembly for allegedly holding a mining lease.