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Saturday, Dec 10, 2022

Jharkhand: IAS officer paid crores in cash to build husband’s hospital, launder money, ED to court

The ED's prosecution complaint against Singhal, her husband Abhishek Jha, who owns Pulse Hospital in Ranchi, where much of the “proceeds of crime” where allegedly used, and her chartered accountant Suman Kumar, was filed before a special court in Ranchi in July this year.

Pooja Singhal arrives to get admitted at a hospital in Ranchi on Tuesday. (PTI)

“Conniving” with Khunti district officials to embezzle Rs 18.06 crore from the state exchequer and depositing Rs 61.5 lakh from “proceeds of crime (POC) generated from Khunti” in her bank account “over and above her known sources of income” between 2009 and 2011 are two of many allegations the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has mentioned in its case against Jharkhand IAS officer Pooja Singhal.

These are part of the ED’s prosecution complaint, equivalent of a chargesheet, in its probe into the MGNREGA funds embezzlement case in Khunti district.

The ED’s prosecution complaint against Singhal, her husband Abhishek Jha, who owns Pulse Hospital in Ranchi, where much of the “proceeds of crime” where allegedly used, and her chartered accountant Suman Kumar, was filed before a special court in Ranchi in July this year.

Singhal was posted as Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khunti between February 16, 2009 and July 19, 2010.

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On May 6 this year, ED conducted searches at several properties linked to Singhal, Jha and Kumar, and said it had recovered Rs 19.76 crore cash. Singhal and Kumar were subsequently arrested. They are currently in judicial custody.

Jha has filed an anticipatory bail petition in court.

The ED told the court that Singhal got 5 per cent “illegal commission” in development projects in Khunti from funds she disbursed in MGNREGA work. It has accused Singhal of keeping two PANs (permanent account number), and said Rs 73.81 lakh was found deposited in her accounts in ICICI Bank. Of this, ED claims, Rs 61.5 lakh was found to have been deposited between 2009 and 2011, which constituted the “proceeds of crime”.

The agency’s complaint mentions that between 2005 and 2012-13, Singhal bought 13 insurance policies of ICICI Bank and paid a premium of Rs 80.81 lakh, which was “much beyond” the income declared as per her Income Tax Returns for the period.

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Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal, IAS officer money launder, IAS officer embezzlement, Khunti district, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India News Cash seized after Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s raid at multiple premises, including that of Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal, in connection with a money laundering probe, in Khunti district, Friday, May 6, 2022. (PTI Photo)

The case against Singhal came to the light while ED was probing the case of alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti against Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, who was a junior engineer in the district. Sinha, along with three other district officials, are accused in the original case.

Singhal was DC of Khunti during this period.

“In connivance with the accused (Sinha), she managed to do a defalcation [embezzlement] in different development projects,” according to ED’s complaint. In return, the agency stated, she received “illegal commission from Sinha in cash and ignored all irregularities and misdeeds by him”.

The details emerged when Singhal’s successor as DC “constituted an inquiry committee to conduct an audit of work done by the engineers”, according to ED.

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Singhal kept her superiors “in the dark” about use of these funds meant for MGNREGA work, as per file noting investigated by ED, the complaint notes.

The agency also investigated bank accounts of Pulse Sanjeevani, and alleged that between 2012-13 and 2019-20, the company showed total turnover of Rs 69.17 crore, although total credits received in bank accounts were Rs 163.59 crore.

The ED complaint mentions that Jha, through his company, paid Rs 6.19 crore to ‘Unique Construction’ to build Pulse Hospital.

What ED also found

* Invested Rs 43 lakh to buy one floor of Orchid Building in Ranchi

* “Heavily undervaluing” balance sheets of Pulse Hospital in Ranchi (owned by husband Abhishek Jha) to “hide laundered money”

* ED quoted the statement of one Akshat Katyal, who looked after the construction of Pulse Hospital from October 2019 to January 2022: “The main decision-maker dealing with me on behalf of Pulse Hospital was Mrs Pooja Singhal, IAS, wife of Abhishek Jha.”

* Katyal told ED that he received Rs 2 crore cash in 2020 for purchase of construction material and payment to labourers

* One Alok Sarawgi received “Rs 3 crore in cash in the year 2016” from Singhal’s CA, Suman Kumar

First published on: 30-09-2022 at 12:27:10 am
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