What Is The Defence Land Scam? Case That May Lead To Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren's Arrest By ED

What Is The Defence Land Scam? Case That May Lead To Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren's Arrest By ED

The ED has arrested 14 people in the case so far. The agency is investigating charges that a 7.16 acre parcel of land near Ranchi was acquired through the proceeds of crime involving the illegal sale of land belonging to the defence forces.

Rahul MUpdated: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 01:50 PM IST
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Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren | Twitter

Security was intensified around the residence of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in Ranchi on Wednesday, as officials from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) began arriving to interrogate him regarding a land fraud case.

Prior to the scheduled questioning at 1 pm, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) displayed its solidarity, with MLAs gathering at the CM's residence on Kanke Road. Section 144 was enforced in the vicinity of the CM's residence as a precautionary measure against potential law and order disturbances later in the day, should Hemant Soren be arrested.

What are the allegations?

The ED has arrested 14 people in the case so far. The agency is investigating charges that a 7.16 acre parcel of land near Ranchi was acquired through the proceeds of crime involving the illegal sale of land belonging to the defence forces. Soren, however, has dismissed the allegations as “politically motivated”, saying that the details of his assets are public.

Dilip Sharma, a tax collector in the Ranchi Municipal Corporation, had filed a police complaint last year against an individual, Pradip Bagchi, that he had allegedly used forged papers to acquire the holding number of an Indian Army property in Ranchi. The ED registered a case and investigations revealed that the 455 decimal (around 4.5 acres) plot originally belonged to B.M. Laxman Rao, who had handed it over to the Indian Army after Independence.

ED uncovers land grabbing cartel

During the investigation, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) uncovered a network involving land mafias, intermediaries, and government officials who falsified documents to portray Bagchi, one of the seven individuals arrested, as the fraudulent owner. The army land was subsequently sold to Jagatbandhu Tea Estate Private Limited based in West Bengal.

Investigators revealed that the sale agreement, indicating a transaction of Rs 7 crore compared to the circle rate of Rs 20.75 crore, was fabricated. ED's inquiry revealed that Bagchi received Rs 25 lakh directly, while the remainder of the sum was allegedly "paid" through fraudulent cheque transactions.

As the ED delved deeper, seven arrests were made, unveiling startling revelations of numerous land transactions where Ranjan purportedly colluded with intermediaries to facilitate document forgery and illegal land transfers. The ED's plea for Ranjan's custodial interrogation, granted by a special CBI judge, contains crucial details regarding the modus operandi of the land scam.

According to the document, ED investigations into records from the circle office in Bargain, Ranchi, and the Registrar of Assurances office in Kolkata uncovered tampering with records related to defense land. Original records were falsified, with new fake entries inserted, either by adding fresh pages or altering existing ones. Five relevant registers were sent for forensic examination, confirming the forgery by the Directorate of Forensic Science Services in Gandhinagar.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is investigating a case involving a "large-scale racket of illicit transfer of land ownership by criminal syndicates" in Jharkhand, as stated by the central investigative agency. Hemant Soren is under scrutiny for allegations of money laundering, which allegedly involved the fabrication of documents to procure "extensive land holdings" valued at millions of rupees.

The ED said that the probe is being carried out into the alleged acquisition of "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 a value in crores".

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