Indian state chief minister Hemant Soren arrested in land scam case

Officers from India’s financial investigation agency arrested a state chief minister Wednesday in an alleged land scam investigation that allies of the detained man said was politically motivated.

Hemant Soren, the top elected official of eastern Jharkhand state, was detained by the Enforcement Directorate after hours of questioning.

He is accused of money laundering in a case stemming from the alleged illegal sale of public land.

Rajesh Thakur, a lawmaker from a party in coalition with Soren’s Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) party, told AFP the chief minister submitted his resignation to the state’s governor late in the evening.

A JMM lawmaker, who requested anonymity, told AFP that Soren was soon afterwards taken into custody by officials from the investigation agency.

Soren’s arrest also followed raids on Monday by the Enforcement Directorate on his official residence in New Delhi.

Local media reports said investigators seized two luxury cars and 3,600,000 rupees ($43,360) in cash.

Soren’s party told journalists that their leader had been unjustly targeted by the agency at the direction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Tanu Khatri, a JMM spokesman, told the website India Today that the case against probe was intended to pressure Soren to switch his allegiance to the BJP “or go to jail”.

Opposition parties have accused the government in New Delhi of using national investigation agencies to unjustly target its opponents.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose party is competing in an opposition alliance against the BJP in national elections due this year, is the subject of a similar criminal probe over the allegedly corrupt allocation of liquor licences in the capital.

Three senior members of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party have been jailed in connection with that probe.

Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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