A search team from ED and police of different states are on his trail after he went missing from his house in South Delhi early on Monday. One security official with him is also not traceable while other security staff accompanying the CM have now left for Ranchi, sources said.
After a search at his Delhi residence and unsuccessfully waiting for the CM to surface, the ED team had left his house late at night on Monday, taking away the car with them with other seized materials.
As reported by TOI, in an unprecedented development, the ED on Monday roped in Delhi Police to look for Soren after they did not find him at his residence.
The ED team had reached Soren’s residence in connection with their probe into a case of alleged money laundering of hundreds of crores.
Sources in ED said that the investigators, who were told that Soren had left moments before they reached his residence, sounded an alert when they found phones of CM and his personal security officers switched off.
The agency also asked for pickets at Capital’s borders after they got to know that Soren had cancelled the chartered flight he was scheduled to take for Ranchi at 6 in the evening. Police in the neighbouring states were also asked to look for him, leading to arguably the first-ever manhunt against a CM.
The ED, which got to question Soren in Ranchi earlier this month after he had avoided eight summonses, had written to him saying that they would want him to answer a few more questions either on Monday or Wednesday. The probe team decided to question him on Monday in the Capital after getting to know that he was in the city for legal consultations.
Soren’s party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, issued a statement to deny that he was “absconding” and said that Soren had agreed to meet the probe team on Wednesday even when they considered the investigation to be a political witch hunt.
Later in the evening Soren sent an email to the agency saying he is willing for a session with the investigators at 1pm on Jan 31 at his official residence in Ranchi. He called the ED’s search for him part of “motivated political agenda” and summons as completely “vexatious and in colourable exercise of powers given by the statue”.
A security alert has been placed in Ranchi and other parts of Jharkhand in view of possible deterioration in law and order situation in the state even as the ED is on a look out for the missing CM. Soren had arrived in the national Capital on Saturday possibly for ‘legal consultation’ to explore options for him in view of ED’s insistence that he answer all the questions related to alleged money laundering.
Sources said the Jharkhand CM has no other option but to submit before the agency as he had lost all his appeals before the Supreme Court and the Jharkhand High Court against ED summonses earlier.
After disregarding eight summonses from ED, Soren had recorded his statement on Jan 20 at his residence in Ranchi. He was served fresh summons, with ED saying that the session can be scheduled on Jan 29 or 31.
During his questioning on Jan 20, a large crowd of supporters gathered outside his Ranchi residence despite the huge presence of state police. Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha had then claimed that around 500 CRPF personnel had tried to “enter CM’s residence without permission” to allegedly provoke JMM workers to attack and later accuse the state of failure of law and order.
Sources said that they were keen to avoid a repeat of the incident and thought of questioning him in Delhi. Several close aides of Soren have already been arrested, including two IAS officers, his personal aide Prem Prakash and his constituency representative Pankaj Mishra. Sources said that they want to question Soren in the light of the statements of other accused who allegedly collected ‘proceeds of crime’ from mining and land scams. Last year, ED had seized/attached assets worth more than Rs 50 crore after multiple searches at the premises of CM’s close associates.
Watch Where is Hemant Soren?: Mystery deepens as ED probe heats up against Jharkhand CM