The Enforcement Directorate (ED) seized Rs 11.88 crore from 37 bank accounts belonging to Pankaj Mishra, the political aide of Jharkhand Chief Minister (CM) Hemant Soren. The agency claimed that the seized cash is a part of the money generated from illegal mining in various places, including Soren’s constituency Sahibganj.
Earlier, on July 7, the ED had conducted searches at 19 locations in Sahibganj, Barnet, Rajmahal, Mirza Chauki and Barharwa resulting in the seizure of various incriminating documents and Rs 5.34 crore unaccounted cash.
The developments come at a time when Soren is facing allegations of corruption for allotting a mining lease to himself and a plot of land to his wife. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has already issued a notice to Soren’s brother and state MLA Basant Soren in the mining lease issue. Basant is an MLA from Dumka.
“During the search operation, ED has also seized five stone crushers that were being illegally operated and five illegal firearm cartridges. The evidence collected during the investigation, including statements of various persons, digital evidence and documents revealed that the seized cash and bank balance are derived from illegal mining being rampantly done in the Sahibganj area, including in the forest area,” the ED said in a statement.
“A trail of further Rs 100 crore of proceeds of crime generated from illegal mining has also been unearthed and being worked upon,” the statement added.
The allegations were first made at a press conference by the former chief minister and BJP leader Raghubar Das, who had also hinted at Mishra being involved in some dubious deals.
In May, the ED conducted searches at 36 locations connected with the alleged MNREGA scam, which included the premises of Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal. It led to the seizure of Rs 19.76 crore in cash. “In this case also, evidence collected during the investigation 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 was belonging to senior bureaucrats and politicians,” the ED statement said.