ED arrests three more in land scam case linked to Hemant Soren

ED says investigation has revealed that land mafia active in Jharkhand is involved in tampering of land records in Ranchi and Kolkata.

Published - May 11, 2024 10:58 pm IST - Patna

The Directorate of Enforcement (ED), Ranchi, has arrested three more people in an alleged land scam involving former Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren who is already in jail in a money laundering case. So far, 25 people have been arrested as part of the investigation.

“Three people named Sanjeet Kumar, Mohammad Irshad and Tapas Ghosh have been arrested in the case of Bhanu Pratap Prasad and Others -- one of the cases of land scam being investigated under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, on May 9,” an ED official said.

“They have been arrested for their role in forgery, tampering and fabrication of land records by changing the nature of lands which are designated as non-saleable under Chota Nagpur Tenancy Act (CNT Act), a legislation with objective to protect the land rights of tribal and marginalized communities,” the official said.

During investigation, involvement of government officials of the Land Revenue Department in Ranchi and Kolkata has surfaced. Mr. Kumar and Mr. Ghosh worked as contractual employees at the Registrar of Assurances in Kolkata.

The original records maintained in Kolkata which were identified to be forged and tampered have been produced on the order of the Special PMLA Court, Ranchi, for forensic examination.

“Investigation revealed that some of the land parcels acquired through such falsification and forgery by the accused persons are under illegal possession of Hemant Soren,” the official said.

The ED has initiated investigation in five cases of land scam with similar modus operandi on the basis of multiple FIRs registered by the Jharkhand Police and the Kolkata Police against several persons including government officials.

The ED investigation revealed that land mafia active in Jharkhand is involved in tampering of land records in Ranchi and Kolkata. Original land records of ownerships are either tampered or concealed to facilitate unlawful acquisition, possession and use of landed properties. Subsequently, on the basis of forged land records, such land parcels are sold to other persons.

The ED had earlier carried out 55 searches and nine surveys in such cases and incriminating evidence such as forged seals of the Land Revenue Department, forged land deeds, records of distribution of proceeds of crime, photographs, evidence of bribing government officials were seized.

Searches have resulted in recovery and seizure of Rs 1.27 crore of cash and further freezing of Rs 3.56 crore of bank account balances. In the cases of land scam, the ED has provisionally attached land parcels worth Rs 266 crore (commercial value).

“Twenty-five accused including Hemant Soren, Chhavi Ranjan, IAS (Ex-DC, Ranchi), Bhanu Pratap Prasad (revenue sub-inspector), Amit Kumar Agarwal, Prem Prakash have been arrested so far and three prosecution complaints have been filed by the ED in the cases of land scam under investigation,” the official said.

Mr. Soren and Mr. Prasad, a revenue official in Ranchi and custodian of original government records, were arrested for acquiring, possessing and concealing the proceeds of crime in the nature of an immovable property admeasuring 8.8 acres at Bariatu, Ranchi.

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