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Seized more than INR 36-cr illegal mining cash in Jharkhand over last 2 months — ED

By PTI Updated: Jul 15, 2022 10:36 pm

New Delhi, July 15 (PTI): More than INR 36 crore in cash, linked to alleged “illegal mining” in Jharkhand, has been seized over the last more than two months as part of two separate money laundering investigations, the Enforcement Directorate said on Friday.

The latest seizure pertains to an investigation against Pankaj Mishra, the political representative of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren, and others where the federal probe agency said it has frozen INR 11.88 crore cash kept in as many as 37 bank accounts.

This action came after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided at least 19 locations in Sahibganj, Barhet, Rajmahal, Mirza Chauki and Barharwa of Jharkhand on July 8 as part of a probe into alleged irregularities in the operation of toll plaza tenders and instances of illegal mining in the state.

“Cash amounting to INR 11.88 crore lying in 37 bank accounts belonging to Pankaj Mishra, Dahoo Yadav and their associates has been seized under the Prevention of Money laundering Act in the illegal mining case,” the agency said in a statement.

The ED had earlier seized INR 5.34 crore “unaccounted” cash soon after the July 8 raids.

Five stone crushers that were being illegally operated and an equal number of “illegal firearm cartridges” have also been seized, it said.

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

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

The second instance where cash, linked to alleged illegal mining in the state, was unearthed pertains to the ED action against suspended IAS officer Pooja Singhal, in May this year.

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

The bureaucrat, 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 (CA) linked to her and her husband, was also arrested by the agency and a total cash of INR 19.76 crore was seized by it then.

A charge sheet has been filed against Singhal and others by the agency before a special PMLA court in Ranchi this month.

“Evidence collected during the course of 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 said.

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

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

The Election Commission (EC) is hearing this case as the BJP has sought 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 leader under Section 9A of the Representation of the People Act as it is alleged that owning the lease violates this law.

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.

By PTI Updated: Jul 15, 2022 10:36:58 pm