ED finds 2 AK-47 assault rifles in a rented house in Ranchi. Then a twist

Updated on Aug 25, 2022 04:35 AM IST

The Jharkhand Police said the two AK-47 rifles belong to two police guards assigned to protect Prem Prakash but did not explain why the rifles were lying in the almirah or reveal their identity

Ranchi: Central Reserve Police Force  personnel stand guard during a raid by ED at a premises linked to a close aide of Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren.(PTI)
Ranchi: Central Reserve Police Force  personnel stand guard during a raid by ED at a premises linked to a close aide of Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren.(PTI)
ByVishal Kant and Neeraj Chauhan, Hindustan Times, Ranchi/new Delhi

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday carried out searches at 17 locations across four states as part of its probe into allegations of laundering of funds generated from illegal mining in Jharkhand but it was the discovery of two AK-47 assault rifles in an almirah of a rented house in Ranchi that was in the spotlight through the day, people familiar with the development said.

The assault rifles, 60 ammunitions and two magazines were seized from an almirah of the rented house of Prem Prakash, a businessman linked to the money laundering probe into illegal mining that led to the arrest of Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren’s key aide Pankaj Mishra, in July.

The federal agency also raided the office of a chartered accountant, Jaishankar Jaipuriar, who has some high-profile clients, including the ruling Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) of CM Hemant Soren.

Describing the searches as “action as per the script of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), JMM’s principal general secretary and spokesperson Supriyo Bhattacharyasaid, “He (Jaipuriar) is CA of the JMM. Let them conduct the probe. If anything wrong comes out of it, we will react accordingly.”

“The BJP can’t see any non-BJP government doing well. They are using agencies in all non-BJP ruled states. They especially can’t stand state governments doing well in the field of education because they don’t want the poor adivasis, dalits and minorities to get good education,” he alleged. “...They have been hatching conspiracy since last year after the Hemant Soren government launched the Marang Gomke Ramadayal Munda scholarship programme.”

Hitting back, the BJP demanded a probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after recovery of two AK-47 rifles from Prakash’s house.

“The Jharkhand police are writing a script to protect Prem Prakash, who is a ring master of middlemen in the government. AK-47s were allocated to bodyguards who were meant to guard someone else but the arms were recovered from Prakash’s residence,” claimed BJP legislature party leader Babulal Marandi. “It seems the government’s arms are being misused under the watch of the CM, who is also the home minister. The NIA should take note and begin probe.”

ED officials described the discovery of assault rifles from Prakash’s rented accommodation at Ranchi’s Harmu Housing colony as a “serious matter”.

But hours later, the Jharkhand police claimed the rifles seized by ED belong to the state police, and not some musclemen as was being speculated. “The two rifles belong to our jawans,” said Binod Kumar, officer-in-charge, Argora police station. “The agency will hand over these guns to us later as per due process. We will give the status report about the recovery to our seniors.”

Later in the day, the Ranchi police issued a statement saying their two constables had left the rifles with the staff of Prakash while returning home from duty on Tuesday night.

“The two constables have given it in writing that they left the AK-47 rifles and ammunitins with the staff of Prakash as it had started raining. They took the keys of the almirah with them,” said the statement. “When they returned to the house on Wednesday morning, they could not get the arms as the ED raids were being conducted there.”

The Ranchi police further said the two constables have been suspended for negligence and further action was being taken against them.

ED officials have not responded to the state police’s claim.

Demanding a probe by NIA in the incident, BJP’s Godda MP Nishikant Dubey claimed that Prakash is an “associate of Jharkhand CM and his family friend Amit Agarwal and that his (Prakash) links should be investigated by NIA”.

In another tweet in Hindi, Dubey targeted Jharkhand police, while saying: “Prakash’s house was locked for the past 25 days…”

ED raids were also conducted at multiple locations in Bihar, Tamil Nadu and the Delhi-National Capital Region. “The raids are part of continuing probe to look for beneficiaries of the illegal mining,” said an ED officer, who did not wish to be named.

The federal anti-money laundering probe agency started its probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on a first information report (FIR) registered at Barharwa police station, in Jharkhand’s Sahibganj district against chief minister Soren’s aide Pankaj Mishra and others.

It subsequently expanded the scope of its investigation to cover money laundering alleged in several other FIRs related to illegal mining.

So far, ED has detected proceeds of crime worth 100 crore in the case.

Mishra was arrested on July 19 and Bacchu Yadav, described as one of his musclemen, was arrested on August 5.

ED alleges that Yadav is involved in illegal mining and their transportation on a large scale in association with Mishra. “During the investigation, it is also found that Yadav is a habitual criminal and there are several cases registered against him regarding an attempt to murder, extortion, threatening, possession of illegal arms etc in Sahibganj area,” ED said on August 5 after Yadav’s arrest.

“The evidence collected during the course of the investigation, including the statements of various persons, digital evidence and documents, revealed that the seized cash or bank balance is derived from illegal mining being rampantly done in Sahibganj, including the forest area,” the agency said. .

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