THE ENFORCEMENT Directorate on Friday conducted raids at 18 locations in four states, including premises linked to Jharkhand Mining Secretary Pooja Singhal, as part of its probe in a case of money laundering involving the alleged diversion of MGNREGA funds.
According to the ED, raids were conducted in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Punjab, and unearthed various documents regarding assets and properties allegedly linked to Singhal. ED sources said they include a multi-speciality hospital in Ranchi.
The agency also recovered Rs 18 crore in cash from the house of a Ranchi-based chartered accountant who is allegedly linked to Singhal, the sources said.
The probe is tied to a case registered five years ago but the raids come at a time when Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is facing charges of corruption for allegedly allotting a mining lease in his favour and a plot of land to his wife.
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The raids come a day after the Election Commission issued a notice to Hemant Soren’s brother and Dumka MLA Basant Soren on the mining lease issue. The Commission had earlier sent a notice to the Chief Minister seeking his stand on the charges.
Singhal was not available for comment. Chief Minister Soren dismissed the raids as “empty threats”. “When they (BJP) can’t counter you in the political battlefield, then they use their machinery,” he said.
The case is based on a 2017 FIR registered by the Anti-Corruption Bureau against a junior engineer, identified as Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, for alleged embezzlement of public money to the tune of Rs 18.06 crore between 2008 and 2011 — and investing it in his name and those of his family members while in service.
Subsequently, the ED attached assets worth over Rs 4.8 crore belonging to Sinha and filed two prosecution complaints (chargesheets) against him in 2020.
In his statement recorded under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, Sinha had claimed that he used to pay five per cent of the cost of an MGNREGA project as commission to his superiors on the engineering section and five per cent to the administration side, including the DC’s office in Khunti.
Sinha had also said in the statement that no commission was paid directly to the DC and that “it was taken care from five per cent commission given for district administration”. He had stated that Singhal was acting DC of Khunti district at the time.
During its investigation, the ED claimed, it found that no action was taken against Sinha during the tenure of Singhal as DC.
A 2000-batch Jharkhand-cadre IAS officer, Singhal has held several top positions, from agriculture secretary in the previous BJP government to tourism and industries secretary in the current JMM-led government. Her husband, Abhishek Jha, is the managing director of Pulse Sanjeevani Healthcare Private Hospital.
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