Jharkhand IAS officer arrested in money laundering case: ED
Ranchi: A multi-specialty hospital "owned" by Jharkhand IAS officer Pooja Singhal and her family in Ranchi was being allegedly used by the bureaucrat to "launder" tainted funds and huge payments at the healthcare facility were usually received in cash, the ED told a local court after arresting the secretary rank officer.
It claimed Singhal played a "pivotal role" in the construction and management of this hospital which is located in the Bariatu area of the state capital. The hospital was searched by the ED last week.
The federal agency arrested the 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer here on Wednesday under the anti-money laundering law and she is now in ED custody.
The 44-year-old bureaucrat was suspended by the Jharkhand government on Thursday as part of the procedure undertaken, in case of a Government servant being arrested in a criminal case, within 24 hours of the receipt of information. The officer was posted as the secretary of industries and was handling the charge of the secretary of the state mining and geology department in an additional capacity.
She was arrested in the money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds and some other alleged suspicious financial transactions after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) raided her premises on May 6 along with that of her businessman husband Abhishek Jha, chartered accountant Suman Kumar and others.
Suman Kumar was arrested in the case last week following the seizure of more than Rs 17.79 crore cash allegedly from his residential and office premises. He continues to be in ED custody.
The agency had said its probe found Singhal, in the past, transferred Rs 16.57 lakh funds from her personal accounts to three bank accounts owned or controlled by the CA.
The agency, quoting the statements of some witnesses interrogated earlier, told the court in its remand note on Wednesday that Singhal played a "pivotal role in the construction and managing the important affairs of the Pulse super specialty hospital and huge payments were received in cash." The ED said the "independent valuation" of the land and building of the hospital (including a diagnostic centre owned by Ms. Pooja Singhal) is more than Rs 40 crore and the value of plant and machinery is found to be more than Rs 30 crore." However, in the financials of the hospital, much less valuation has been declared, the agency claimed.
Officials had earlier said the valuation of the hospital, also allegedly managed by Jha, was reportedly about Rs 3 crore on paper.
"Investigation revealed that tainted funds were being laundered through the said hospital," the ED claimed.
It alleged that CA Kumar recorded his statement with the ED under the PMLA and stated that "most of the cash amount recovered from his house belongs to Pooja Singhal, which was collected by him on her behalf." "He disclosed, that on instructions of Pooja Singhal, he gave Rs 3 crore in cash to a renowned builder for purchasing the land for Pulse hospital owned by Pooja Singhal and her family." The ED investigation pertains to a money laundering case in which a 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 a junior engineer from April 1, 2008, to March 21, 2011.
This money was earmarked for the execution of government projects under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.
Sinha told the ED that "he paid 5 percent commission (out of the defrauded funds) to the district administration." During the period, the ED had earlier claimed, various charges of "irregularities" were made against Singhal while she served as the deputy commissioner/district magistrate of Chatra, Khunti and Palamu between 2007-2013.
The ED, in the latest document, quoted the statement of an un-named accused it recorded earlier to allege that "Sinha was paying a bribe to Smt Pooja Singhal." "He (accused) has confessed that on four occasions he had seen the accused junior engineer (Sinha) handing over bags containing 18-20 Gaddis (bundles) of notes of Rs 500 denomination." The ED quoted the statement of a witness to say he used to keep the money given to him by Sinha for the bureaucrat in "locked bags" and subsequently handed it over to her.