Businessman ‘hatched’ conspiracy to ‘trap’ petitioner’s lawyer fighting case against Soren: ED

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Saturday arrested businessman Amit Agarwal and told a special court in Ranchi that he had created a “facade” and “hatched” a criminal conspiracy to “trap” Rajeev Kumar, a lawyer representing a petitioner in two PILs against Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and who is now under arrest.

While one of the PILs sought a prosecution sanction against Soren, who holds the mining portfolio, for allegedly granting himself a mining lease, the other PIL stated that the CM was allegedly linked to shell companies and money laundering. The two cases are currently being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Kumar was arrested by the Kolkata Police on July 31 based on a complaint by Agarwal, who alleged that he “was coerced” to bribe the lawyer as he promised he would give him “respite” in the PIL on shell companies and money laundering. Kumar is now in judicial custody in Ranchi.

Presenting Agarwal in a PMLA court in Ranchi, the ED, in its remand paper, alleged that the “proceeds of the crime” in the alleged “1,000 crore illegal mining case”, which allegedly involved CM Soren’s aide Pankaj Mishra, were “laundered” through Agarwal’s companies.

The ED also alleged that Agarwal’s “false complaint” against lawyer Kumar “was all done absolutely in order to project the [shell companies] PIL as a conspiracy between the complainant [Agarwal], the advocate, the government officials and the Judiciary”.

Advocate Kumar had been representing Shiv Shankar Sharma, who filed a PIL before the Jharkhand High Court alleging that several companies owned by Agarwal were allegedly involved in laundering at the behest of the Soren family.

The ED told the court that “the only mens rea or motive behind this [Agarwal’s complaint] was to hamper the ongoing PIL for his gain… the name of Amit Agarwal has cropped up in the investigation of illegal mining case having Proceeds of Crime (POC) of more than Rs 1,000 crore. Investigation revealed that a substantial portion of this POC was being laundered through the companies of Amit Agrawal. This act i.e. offering bribe to Rajeev Kumar and getting him trapped was a desperate attempt to push the investigation away so that the concealed POC do not surface” since he was “anticipating orders from the High Court” in the PIL, “foreseeing future investigation into his companies”.

The ED also said that while Agarwal claimed in his complaint to the Kolkata Police that Rajeev Kumar “demanded bribe from him”, the agency’s investigation found that Agarwal was himself “influencing and offering bribe” to Kumar, who was “also keen to accept it”.

“…He (Agarwal) withdrew Rs 60 lakh from his bank account out of which Rs 50 lakh was used to trap Rajeev Kumar. Thus, the said amount was in fact proceeds of crime which was generated by Amit Agarwal and acquired by Rajeev Kumar,” the ED said.

The ED also accused the Kolkata Police of favouring Agarwal. “…It is submitted that the accused is having relations and proximity with the Kolkata Police, which he encashed for his gain and to deviate the investigation…the FIR (against Rajeev Kumar) was registered with the help of the acquainted Kolkata Police officials and was lodged in a police station, outside the limits of his residence as well as his office. Investigation also reveals that the police did not even verify the contents of the complaint of Amit Agarwal and knowingly registered FIR under PC Act in order to show that the PIL was a result of the conspiracy between applicant, advocate, court officials and other government officials.”

Agarwal had alleged in his complaint that lawyer Kumar had asked for money with an assurance to “settle the issue” by “by managing Justices, Court Officers and other government agencies”. However, the ED said, Agarwal could not provide the name of any government official allegedly mentioned by Rajeev Kumar while making his purported bribe demand.

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