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ED Raids: Rs 30 Crores Unaccounted Cash Seized in Ranchi

ED Raids: Rs 30 Crores Unaccounted Cash Seized in Ranchi

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, May 6: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Monday launched a series of raids across multiple locations in Jharkhand’s capital city of Ranchi and seized cash and some jewellery recovered in the search.

The ED sources said the unaccounted cash seized were still being counted and it was expected to be in the range of Rs 25 to Rs 30 crores. “The cash is largely in the denomination of ₹500 and some jewellery has also been recovered,” the sources said.

The recent raids, conducted under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), have targeted approximately half a dozen locations linked to Virendra Ram, the former chief engineer at the Jharkhand Rural Development Department, and his inner circle. Virendra Ram was arrested by the ED in February 2023 in connection with a money laundering case.

“Virendra Kumar Ram, posted as chief engineer in the Rural Works Department in Ranchi had generated proceeds of crime in the name of commission from contractors in lieu of allotment of tenders to them,” the agency had alleged in a statement issued last year in April after it attached assets worth ₹39 crore of the officer. “The proceeds of crime thus generated were used by Virendra Kumar Ram and his family members to live a very lavish lifestyle,” it said. The money-laundering case against Ram stems from a complaint of the Jharkhand anti-corruption bureau (ACB).

Videos and photos shared by the sources showed officials of the Central probe agency taking out wads of currency notes from large bags in a room. Some Central force security personnel were also seen. The footage of the raid shows a mountain of currency notes scattered across a room purportedly belonging to the domestic aide of Sanjiv Lal, the personal secretary to Jharkhand Rural Development minister Alamgir Alam. The 70-year-old Alamgir Alam is a Congress leader and represents the Pakur seat in the Jharkhand assembly.

Responding to the raids, Mr Alam said it would not be right to comment since the probe agency is still investigating the case. “Sanjiv Lal is a government employee. He is my personal secretary. Sanjiv Lal has already been a personal secretary of two former ministers. There are several government employees and we usually appoint personal secretaries based on experience. It is not right to comment on the raids before the ED investigation is completed,” he said.

The opposition BJP was quick to launch a scathing attack on the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led coalition government in the state. “Corruption is not ending in Jharkhand. This money during elections indicates that there is a plan to spend this money in the elections. The Election Commission should take action on this,” said Jharkhand BJP spokesperson Pratul Shahdev.

The probe agency is conducting simultaneous raids at nine locations, including Sail City in Ranchi. On Monday morning, one team of the ED was scouring Sail City to locate Vikas Kumar, an engineer from the Road Construction Department. Another ED team is conducting raids in the Bariatu, Morhabadi, and Bodia areas.

Meanwhile, the former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren made an oral mentioning before the Supreme Court on Monday to urgently hear his appeal against his arrest on money laundering charges. Appearing before a Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Mr Soren, said polling in Jharkhand for the Lok Sabha election was due on May 13, and that he should be allowed to campaign for his party.

“The High Court kept the judgment pending for long. The judgment in my case against my arrest was reserved by the High Court in February. Finally, we had to appeal to the Supreme Court with a petition for interim bail, saying the High Court was not pronouncing its verdict,” Mr Sibal explained. Mr Sibal said the rights of Mr Soren were being trampled upon.

Chief Justice Chandrachud informed Mr Sibal that the plea for interim bail was already coming up for hearing on May 7. Mr Sibal said his appeal against the High Court judgment should also be listed along with the bail plea.

The bail pea had come up on April 29 before a Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta. The Bench had issued notice to the ED while giving the Jharkhand High Court liberty to pronounce its judgment on Mr Soren’s petition challenging his arrest. The High Court’s judgment, on May 3, refused to quash the case against Mr Soren, while observing that the former Chief Minister could not wriggle out of the “mess” by invoking the spectre of political vendetta.

Mr Soren was arrested on January 31 after he resigned as the Chief Minister, and party loyalist and State Transport Minister Champai Soren was named as his successor. He was arrested after being grilled by the ED for seven hours in the case. The ED is probing the alleged “huge amounts of proceeds of crime generated by manipulation of official records by showing dummy sellers and purchasers in the guise of forged/bogus documents to acquire huge parcels of land having value in crores.”

The ED had attached land measuring 8.86 acre, allegedly owned by Mr Soren. It had filed a charge sheet against the 48-year-old JMM leader and four others — Bhanu Pratap Prasad, Raj Kumar Pahan, Hilariyas Kachhap and Binod Singh — on March 30 before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in Ranchi. The court took cognisance of the prosecution complaint on April 04, the ED had said in a statement. The ED requested the court for confiscation of the 8.86-acre plot.

The money laundering investigation stems from multiple FIRs registered by Jharkhand Police in land scam cases against several persons including government officials. The prime accused in the case is former Jharkhand revenue department official and custodian of government records Mr Prasad, who is alleged to have “misused” his official position by providing assistance to several persons including Soren in their activities linked to illegal occupation, acquisition and possession of proceeds of crime in form of landed properties, the agency said in a statement.

“A racket of land mafia is active in Jharkhand which use to forge the land records in Ranchi,” it claimed. Probe found, the ED said, the ownership records of lands have also been “forged” to extend favours to the said land mafia and subsequently, on the basis of forged land records, such land parcels are sold to other persons. “Original land records of ownerships are either tampered or concealed to facilitate unlawful acquisition, possession and use of such properties,” it said.

Mr Prasad, the ED said in its charge sheet, was a member of a syndicate which was involved in acquiring lands by fraudulent means which included tampering with original government registers, falsification of government records and manufacturing fake documents.

The land that is alleged to have been acquired by Mr Soren is about 8.86 acre in size and located at Baragain Anchal, Bariyatu Road in Ranchi. It has been valued at ₹31,07,02,480 as per urban residential property rate of ₹3,50,680 per decimal, the ED charge sheet said. The agency said Mr Soren was in the “possession” of this immovable asset since 2010-11.

The agency claimed Mr Soren and Mr Prasad were “knowingly” a party in the activities connected with acquisition, possession, concealment and use of proceeds of crime as well as projecting the said proceeds of crime (8.86 acres land) as untainted property. Accused Pahan, Kachhap and Singh “knowingly assisted” Mr Soren in his activities connected with the proceeds of crime.

Mr Soren, in his statement to the ED, denied having any link to the said property and said he had no relation with Prasad. The ED said during its searches at a residential house “under use and control” of Mr Soren in Delhi on January 29, cash worth ₹36.34 lakh, a BMW Luxury car and incriminating documents were seized.




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