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Soren’s WhatsApp chats suggest ‘money appears to have been generated’ by ‘transfer postings’: ED in court

Soren’s five-day custody ended on Wednesday, after which the ED produced him in the Special Court of Dinesh Rai, saying the agency needs to confront him with certain witnesses and accused.

The Directorate of Enforcement Wednesday told a special court in Ranchi that former Chief Minister Hemant Soren allegedly had several incriminating chats on WhatsApp with a close aide about transfer postings, exchanged confidential information about several properties, and shared government records.

Soren’s five-day custody ended on Wednesday, after which the ED produced him in the Special Court of Dinesh Rai, saying the agency needs to confront him with certain witnesses and accused. The PMLA court granted the ED five-day custody. Soren was arrested on January 31 for his alleged involvement in the ownership of 8.5 acres of land.

ED, in its remand note, told the court: “The WhatsApp chat not only includes an exchange of confidential information regarding several properties but other incriminating information relating to transfer posting, sharing of government records, etc, out of which a huge amount of money appears to have been generated and transacted. In addition to this, (the close aide) has WhatsApp chats with several other persons concerning transfer posting of officials, possession and sharing of several admit cards of students appearing for competitive exams held by Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission, etc.”

ED informed the court that Soren was requested to produce his phone on which he had the chat. “However, he has deliberately not produced his mobile in order to conceal facts and stall investigation relating to suspected proceeds of crime,” it alleged.

ED also alleged that there has been blatant misuse of power in hampering evidence linked with this case. For ownership of land linked to which Soren has been arrested, the ED in its note said the first summons issued to him was on August 8, 2023, to appear before the agency on August 14. The ED noted that on August 16, a petition was filed by one Raj Kumar Pahan to the Circle Officer, Bargain, stating that he had that land and “some persons have managed to get illegal Jamabandi of his land”. In the plea, he requested the Circle Officer to take necessary actions to save him from eviction from the land.

On January 29, 2024, the property was restored to Pahan. However, the ED said: “The whole exercise of forming a report and vesting the land to the party, namely Pahan and others, has started after the Directorate of Enforcement has surveyed on April 20, 2023.”

ED claimed that during their survey, it was informed that the land belonged to Soren, but there were no records of it at the Circle Office. “The caretaker informed… that two or three times Hemant Soren and his wife visited this property,” the ED said, adding that searches at his residence in Delhi led to the seizure of certain documents related to this case.

The agency claimed: “It is revealed that the proceeds of crime acquired by him are not only restricted to the investigation of the property measuring 8.5 acres, but there are several other properties linked to him, and investigation to identify the said proceeds of crime and its trail of money is essentially required at this stage.”

“The ED had prayed for seven days of remand which we objected saying no further remand is required because he has already been interrogated for eight hours on January 20 and another eight hours on January 31,” Advocate General Rajeev Ranjan, appeared for Soren, was quoted by PTI as telling reporters.

Apart from that, he has already been interrogated for 120 hours in five days, he said. “So, there is no need for any further remand. But they have tried to expand this scope of investigation beyond the predicate offence matter. We have been saying that they (ED) have no power and jurisdiction to investigate anything beyond the predicate offence.”

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