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Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal grilled for 9 hours by ED

She along with her husband had appeared before the Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering probe linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti
Pooja Singhal
Pooja Singhal
File Picture

Our Bureau, PTI   |   Ranchi   |   Published 10.05.22, 10:29 PM

Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal was questioned for about nine hours Tuesday as she appeared before the ED here along with her husband in a money-laundering probe linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti and other charges, officials said.

She has been called again on Wednesday for a fresh round of grilling.

The federal agency recorded the statement of the 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

They said the statement of her businessman husband Abhishek Jha was also recorded, a third time.

The couple reached the Enforcement Directorate office in the Hinoo area on the airport road around 11 AM and left around 8 PM.

The questioning comes after the ED conducted raids against the bureaucrat, her husband, their linked entities 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 brand cars -- which were in the name of arrested CA Suman Kumar or his linked persons under the anti-money laundering law, officials said.

The day-long questioning at the ED office saw hectic developments with some cars carrying trunks entering the agency's building even as a number of media personnel were stationed outside.

The Enforcement Directorate investigation against Singhal and 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 by the agency 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.

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 Palamu 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.

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.

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