Jharkhand suspends mining secretary Pooja Singhal
Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal, who was arrested on Wednesday by the Enforcement Directorate in a money-laundering case, has been suspended, officials said.
“Pooja Singhal has been suspended with immediate effect under the provisions of All India Services (Discipline and Appeal Rules, 1969),” an official said.
The ED had produced the 2000 batch IAS officer before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court of Prabhat Kumar Sharma after two consecutive days of questioning by the central probe agency on Tuesday and Wednesday. She was sent to Birsa Munda Central Jail, Hotwar, on Wednesday night after the ED took her on remand for five days.
The case is linked to alleged embezzlement of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGA) funds in Khunti and other suspicious financial transactions.
The money laundering investigation against Singhal and others pertains to a case in which former Jharkhand government junior engineer Ram Binod Prasad Sinha was arrested by the agency on June 17, 2020 from Bengal.
Sinha was accused of defrauding public money and investing it in his own name as well as in the name of his family members between April 1, 2008 and March 21, 2011.
The said money was earmarked for the execution of government projects under MGNREGA in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.
The accused told the ED “he paid a five per cent commission (out of the defrauded funds) to the district administration.”
During the period, the ED alleged charges of “irregularities” were made against Singhal while she served as the deputy commissioner of Chatra, Khunti and Palamau districts between 2007 and 2013.
On May 6, the ED had conducted raids against Singhal, her businessman husband Abhishek Jha and others in Jharkhand and a few other locations. Ranchi-based chartered accountant Suman Kumar was arrested in this case on May 7.
The ED has claimed that Singhal and Jha received cash deposits to the tune of Rs 1.43 crore between 2008 and 2011, the same period when alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds took place in Khunti district.
Over Rs 19 crore was recovered during raids at 18 locations in Jharkhand, Bihar, Bengal and other places in the case recently. Of this, Rs 17.49 crore was found on the premises of Kumar alone.