Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal arrested for money laundering
Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal was arrested by the ED on Wednesday after two consecutive days of grilling in a money-laundering probe linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti and other charges, officials said.
The 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer has been taken into ED custody under the relevant sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Sources claimed that Singhal was "evasive" in her replies and hence was arrested. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) will produce her before a local court here seeking her remand.
She had arrived at the probe agency's regional office in the Hinoo area of Ranchi around 10:40 am for the second day of questioning. She was at the ED office for about nine hours on Tuesday and her statement was recorded.
The ED had conducted raids against the bureaucrat, her businessman husband Abhishek Jha and others on May 6 in Jharkhand and a few other locations.
The agency has also seized four SUVs -- a Jaguar, a Fortuner and two Honda cars -- which were in the name of arrested CA Suman Kumar or his linked persons under the anti-money laundering law, officials said.
Junior engineer held for graft
The ED investigation against Singhal and the others pertains to a money-laundering case in which former junior engineer in the Jharkhand government Ram Binod Prasad Sinha was arrested by the agency on June 17, 2020 from West Bengal after he was booked under the PMLA in 2012 after studying the FIRs of the state vigilance bureau against him.
Sinha was booked by the vigilance bureau under criminal sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertaining to cheating and corruption for allegedly defrauding public money and investing it in his own name as well as in the name of his family members while working as junior engineer from April 1, 2008 to March 21, 2011.
The said money was earmarked for the execution of government projects under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.
5 per cent commission
Sinha told the ED that "he paid five per cent commission (out of the defrauded funds) to the district administration."
During the period, the ED had alleged, charges of "irregularities" were made against Singhal while she served as the deputy commissioner/district magistrate of Chatra, Khunti and Palamau between 2007 and 2013.
The agency arrested chartered accountant Suman Kumar in this case on May 7 after seizing over Rs 17 crore cash from his premises. He is in ED custody till May 11.
Cash receipts to the tune of Rs 1.43cr
The ED is probing his alleged links with the IAS officer and her husband.
The agency had claimed, in a remand note presented to the court for Kumar, that Singhal and her husband received "huge" cash deposits -- to the tune of Rs 1.43 crore -- over and above her salary in their accounts, during the period she faced charges of irregularities while being posted as the DM of various districts in the state.
The ED also told a special PMLA court in Ranchi that the IAS officer allegedly transferred Rs 16.57 lakh from her "personal account" to those controlled or owned by her CA Kumar.