Amid the rising speculations over a major political upheaval in Jharkhand, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has raided around a dozen locations linked to government officials and close aides of Chief Minister Hemant Soren in connection with the alleged illegal mining case of Sahibganj on Wednesday, January 03, 2024.
According to the reports, separate teams of the ED raided premises linked to Sahibganj Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), Rajendra Dubey, Sahibganj Deputy Collector (DC), Ramnivas Yadav, media advisor of CM Hemant Soren, Pintu alias Abhishek Prasad and others on Wednesday morning.
झारखंड में किन-किन ठिकानों पर ED की चल रही छापेमारी ? जानिए। pic.twitter.com/P9sjwR3w8k
— News18 Jharkhand (@News18Jharkhand) January 3, 2024
The sleuths of the ED raided the Hazaribagh-based premises of the DSP, Rajendra Dubey, in connection with the alleged illegal mining case. Additionally, another team of economic intelligence agencies has also raided the Birsa Munda Central Jail where the officials are reported to have investigated the cell phones.
It’s been reported that the officials of the agencies have also seized electronic devices and other documents during the raids; however, the details of the raids at as many as 12 locations are yet to be shared by the agency.
Raids conducted by the CBI
It is to be noted that earlier, a team of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had also raided a number of locations linked to Pankaj Mishra, an Enforcement Directorate (ED) accused in the illegal mining case on Sahibganj’s Nimbu Pahadi, through which Rs 1000 crore were generated illegally, according to the ED findings.
The raids were conducted by a 40-member CBI team that barged inside the premises of Mishra’s close associate, Rajesh Yadav (another ED accused who is on the run) alongside raiding locations related to Pavitra Yadav, Chotu Yadav and Dahu Yadav on December 07.
The raids were conducted based on a FIR lodged by ED witness Vijay Hansda, in which the CBI team recovered many incriminating documents from the premises linked to the accused. The development occurred after the agency filed a First Information Report (FIR) based on the findings of a preliminary investigation that was commenced following an order by the Jharkhand High Court in August last year.
According to the reports, the CBI had named Pankaj Mishra, Bachhu Yadav, and Pavitra Yadav, along with others, for their alleged involvement in the illegal mining on Nimbu Pahad. Most of the accused named by the CBI including Pankaj Mishra, an MLA representative of Chief Minister Hemant Soren, had already been investigated by the ED in a money laundering case pertaining to illegal mining.
The Economic Intelligence Agency had also conducted raids at more than 25 locations pertaining to the case following which Mishra along with others accused were arrested in the year 2022.
Who is Bijay Hansda?
A resident of Sahibganj district, Bijay Hansda, rose to the limelight after he filed a petition in court alleging that for the last two and a half years, stone mafias were carrying out illegal mining in connivance with government officials in Nimbu Pahdi of Sahibganj. In his petition, Hansda further alleged that the accused, including Pankaj Mishra, a close aide of Chief Minister Hemant Soren, were using earthmoving machines and carrying blasts.
Hansda had also alleged that his complaint against Mishra had fallen on deaf ears as no action was initiated against Mishra by the district officials. However, a month after filing the petition, Hansda turned hostile during the hearing of the matter on September 12 last year and claimed that he never witnessed any illegal mining on Nimbu Pahad and that the accused, Pankaj Mishra, had never misbehaved with him.
Later on, Hansda also travelled to New Delhi to quash the High Court’s order for a preliminary inquiry into the matter by the CBI, though the apex court had then refused to stay the High Court’s order.
It is pertinent to mention here that the ED officials are also investigating the role of Sahibganj Superintendent of Police (SP), Naushad Alam in influencing the ED’s witness Bijay Hansda. According to the reports, SP Alam allegedly arranged tickets for Hansda when the latter had travelled to New Delhi in connection with the case.
Speculation over CM’s resignation
It is to be noted that the ED raids have occurred at a time when speculations over a change of guard in Jharkhand have been floating widely in the media. The speculations are being made after the ED issued its seventh and final summon to CM Hemant Soren about appearing before the agency on December 30 last year.
“Since you have not come to the office of the Directorate of Enforcement in obedience to the summonses issued to you, we are giving you this last opportunity to record your statement under section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, at the place, date and time, mutually convenient to you as well as the undersigned (ED), which should be within 7 days of receipt of this notice/Summons,” said the ED in its summon.
It is pertinent to mention here that a day after the ED’s 7th summon, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) MLA from Gandey assembly seat, Sarafaraz Ahmed, tendered his resignation from the Jharkhand state assembly on Monday, January 1, 2024.
According to the reports, MLA Sarafarz Ahmed met with the Jharkhand assembly speaker, Ravindra Mahto on Monday afternoon and submitted his resignation letter, which was accepted by the latter subsequently. However, it’s been learned that the JMM’s MLA has not stated any significant reason behind leaving the prestigious position. As of now, the JMM has reportedly called a meeting of its legislators on Wednesday evening, leading to speculation by the opposition leaders for a major political upheaval in the State.