ED seizes piles of cash in Jharkhand search | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

ED seizes piles of cash in Jharkhand search

By, Ranchi
May 07, 2024 12:47 AM IST

ED raids in Ranchi recover ₹35.23 crore linked to minister's OSD. BJP seeks EC probe, Congress questions timing ahead of Lok Sabha elections.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out multiple raids across Ranchi on Monday, recovering close to 35.23 crore in cash from the residence of a man allegedly connected to the officer on special duty (OSD) to state rural development and parliamentary affairs minister Alamgir Alam. In raids that continued through the day across at least six places in Jharkhand’s capital, 3 crore was also allegedly recovered from the home of a builder, also ostensibly linked to the OSD. The recoveries set off a political firestorm in the state ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, with polling across its 14 seats set to begin on May 13, spread across four phases. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked for the Election Commission to step in and probe the matter, while the Congress questioned the timing of the raids.

ED officials during the raid in Ranchi on Monday. (ANI)
ED officials during the raid in Ranchi on Monday. (ANI)

ED officials said seven teams began the raids at 6am on Monday morning, and recoveries were largely made from the residence of Jahangir Alam near Ranchi hill. Alam ostensibly works at the home of Sanjeev Lal, OSD to Congress leader and state rural development and parliamentary affairs minister Alamgir Alam. ED officials said that searches continued into the evening, and multiple cash counting machines had to be pressed into service.

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The cash, said officials, was recovered from bags, cupboards as well as a diwan in the drawing room.

Officials also said that 3 crore was recovered separately from the residence of builder Munna Singh at the Tejashwini apartment complex in Ranchi. “The SAIL City residence of road construction department engineer Vikas Kumar was also searched,” officials said.

ED officials said that the searches took place in a case that had seen Birendra Ram, then chief engineer of the rural development department arrested on February 23, 2023, accused of laundering money and collecting commission from contractors mandated with the implementation of government schemes.

“Following the arrest of Ram, ED arrested three persons — Neeraj Mittal, Tara Chand and Ram Prakash Bhatia on June 25,” an ED official said.

In the aftermath of Ram’s arrest, ED told a Ranchi court that a portion of the commission allegedly collected by Ram was distributed in a “mechanised manner” to senior bureaucrats and politicians in Jharkhand.

“Ram played a pivotal role in managing tenders and allocation of work to private entities and the percentage of commission is distributed in a mechanised manner to higher ups of government, including highly placed bureaucrats and politicians. Further, during investigation, names of senior bureaucrats and politicians have emerged which is being investigated by ED,” the agency said in February 2023 in its remand note, seen by HT.

The BJP attacked the JMM-Congress alliance that leads the state government and said that such corruption allegations were not new. State BJP spokesperson Pratul Shahdeo said, “Jharkhand has become synonymous with corruption. How the domestic help of an OSD, who must barely earn 30,000 a month, has received such a huge amount of money must be investigated. We believe it could be black money meant to spend during elections. The ED and Election Commission should look into the matter.”

Alam, however, said that he did not want to comment before the end of the ED investigation but said that Lal has also served as personal secretary to two other BJP ministers in the past. “Sanjiv Lal is a government employee and is my personal secretary. Lal has already been a personal secretary of two former ministers. We usually appoint personal secretaries based on experience and it is not right to comment on the raids before the ED investigation is completed,” Alam said.

Congress president Rajesh Thakur questioned the timing of the raids, conducted on the eve of crucial elections. “One should not hurriedly jump to conclusions, and there should be no media trial. We do not tolerate corruption but the timing is an issue. The truth will prevail,” he said.

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