Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren on Thursday said that despite holding a constitutional post he is being treated by the Enforcement Directorate as someone who would flee the country, NDTV reported.
“I can’t remember anyone other than big businessmen having fled the country,” Soren said. “No politician has fled like that.”
Soren made the remarks before appearing for questioning by the central agency in a money laundering investigation related to an alleged mining scam in Jharkhand.
The Enforcement Directorate called Soren for questioning at its regional office in Ranchi on Thursday, after the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha leader skipped the summons issued by the agency on November 3.
On Thursday, Soren alleged that the investigation by the central agency was part of a larger conspiracy by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre to destabilise his government in Jharkhand. He also questioned the Enforcement Directorate’s claims that it had detected illegal mining of stones worth more than Rs 1,000 crore in the state’s Sahibganj district and its adjoining areas.
“For the scam to happen, eight crore metric tons of stones need to be mined, which is four times the legally mined quantity,” Soren said, according to The Indian Express. “At least 20,000 trains and 33 lakh trucks would be required to carry out something of this scale. It is basically not possible.”
In July, the central investigating agency had arrested Soren’s aide Pankaj Mishra, a central committee member of the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
He was arrested after the Enforcement Directorate conducted searches at 19 locations, including his premises in Sahibganj and those linked to him in the state. After the raids, the authorities froze deposits of Rs 11.88 crore lying in 37 bank accounts belonging to Mishra and others.
The central agency said that it had recovered Rs 5.34 crore of unaccounted cash during the raids and claimed that the amounts were linked to illegal mining in the state.
In its chargesheet filed before a special court in Ranchi, the Enforcement Directorate has alleged that Mishra controls the illegal mining business in the chief minister’s Assembly constituency Barhait through his accomplices.
Besides Mishra, the Enforcement Directorate has also named his associates Bacchu Yadav and Prem Prakash as accused. The agency alleged they laundered the money gained through illegal mining. All of them are under judicial custody.
On November 3, an unidentified official of the Enforcement Directorate had told The Indian Express that Soren was summoned after some facts were revealed about his aide which needed to be verified.