Jharkhand: IAS officer remanded to ED custody for five more days
A special PMLA court on Friday extended the ED custody of Pooja Singhal, the suspended IAS officer from Jharkhand, by five more days in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds, a lawyer of the central agency said.
Singhal's chartered accountant Suman Kumar was sent to judicial custody by the court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Kumar was in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate for 13 days.
The 44-year-old IAS officer was suspended by the Jharkhand government on May 12 as part of the procedure undertaken, in case of a government servant being arrested in a criminal case, within 24 hours of the receipt of information.
"The special PMLA court remanded Pooja Singhal to ED custody for five more days from Saturday. Her chartered accountant Suman Kumar has been sent to jail for judicial custody," central agency's counsel BMP Singh told PTI.
The court of Justice Prabhat Kumar Sharma accepted the ED's plea of sending him to judicial custody, Singh said. Singhal, the state mining department secretary, was arrested on May 11 by the ED after two consecutive days of interrogation.
The agency had produced her before the special PMLA court and took her into custody for five days from May 12, which was later extended to May 20.
The ED has interrogated two district mining officers and summoned two others in connection with the case. "The extension of Singhal's custody was sought to confront her and others based on digital devices reports. Asset details and other information are also being sought," Singh said.
Meanwhile, ED sources said there is a "larger conspiracy" in the case. Based on the "incriminating materials" seized during searches, several suspected persons, including district mining officers, have been called for questioning, they said.
Earlier, the agency had informed the court that the digital devices of both Singhal and her CA, which were seized, had been sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory.
ED is also examining all details related to Pulse Hospital, allegedly owned by the bureaucrat and her family, its construction, purchase of equipment as it is suspected that the medical facility was used to "launder" tainted money.
The IAS officer was posted as the secretary of industries and was in charge of the secretary of the state mining and geology department in an additional capacity.
She was arrested in the money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds and some other suspicious financial transactions after the ED raided her premises on May 6 along with that of her businessman husband Abhishek Jha, Suman Kumar and others.
The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA) is aimed at enhancing livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year.
Suman Kumar was arrested following the seizure of more than Rs 17.79 crore in cash allegedly from his residential and office premises.