ED grills Hemant Soren for over 9 hours in Jharkhand illegal mining case
Addressing reporters in the morning before leaving for the ED office, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren claimed he was a "victim of conspiracy" by the Opposition.
Ranchi: Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for over nine-and-half-hours on Thursday in connection with its investigation into an alleged illegal mining case. Soren entered the Ranchi office of the central probe agency around noon and came out around 9.40 pm. His wife had gone to the establishment around 9 pm to receive him outside the office. Later, they straightaway went to the chief minister's residence. Addressing reporters in the morning before leaving for the ED office, Soren claimed he was a "victim of conspiracy" by the Opposition. "The central agency should level allegations only after a detailed investigation into the matter," he said.
The ED summoned Soren at its regional office here for interrogation in a money laundering case linked to alleged illegal mining in the state. The agency has said it has "identified" proceeds of crime relating to illegal stone mining in the state to the tune of Rs 1,000 crore till now.
Soren, talking to reporters, said, "If we calculate the yearly revenue from stone chips mining, it would not touch Rs 1,000 crore. How they estimated the figure is beyond understanding. I am going to ED office and want to see how they arrived at that figure."
"I am the chief minister of the state and hold a constitutional post. But the way summons were issued, it seems I will flee from the country. In my political career, I haven't found any political leader leaving the country, but businessmen have done so," he said.
The chief minister said that such actions create uncertainty in the state. "The Opposition has been hatching a conspiracy to topple this government ever since we came to power. The conspirators who were working like a submarine, have now come to the surface," Soren said.
Soren was initially summoned by the ED on November 3, but he did not appear citing official engagements and had even dared the central probe agency to arrest him. He had then sought a three-week deferment of the summons. The chief minister was asked to appear before the ED for questioning and recording of his statement under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The agency has so far arrested Soren's political aide Pankaj Mishra and two others in the case. On the alleged office-of-profit case, Soren said, "The Election Commission had given its opinion to the governor months back but he hasn't opened the envelop yet. He claimed that he sought a second opinion from the EC but when I wanted to know about it from the poll panel, EC stated that the governor has not sought any second opinion."
"It seems the governor, a constitutional post, is giving patronage to the conspiratorial politics," he said. Following a petition by the BJP seeking Soren's disqualification from the assembly in an office-of-profit case, the EC sent its decision to state Governor Ramesh Bais on August 25.
Though the EC's decision has not yet been made official, there has been a buzz that the poll panel has recommended the chief minister's disqualification as an MLA. In a joint statement on August 28, UPA constituents had accused the governor of encouraging political horse-trading by "deliberately delaying" announcing the decision.
In a bid to thwart the BJP's possible attempt to poach ruling legislators, the UPA coalition on August 30 shifted its MLAs to Raipur by a chartered flight. They flew back to Ranchi on September 4 to attend a special session of Jharkhand assembly on September 5.