Jharkhand’s Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Pooja Singhal “connived” with Khunti district officials to embezzle Rs 18.06 crore from the state exchequer and deposited Rs 61.5 lakh from “proceeds of crime generated from Khunti” into her own account “over and above her known sources of income” between 2009 and 2011, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has alleged, The Indian Express reported.
The IAS officer was arrested in a money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti district and some other suspicious financial transactions. Singhal was posted as Deputy Commissioner (DC) of Khunti between February 16, 2009 and July 19, 2010.
The 44-year-old IAS officer was suspended by the Jharkhand government on May 12 this year.
A prosecution complaint, equivalent to that of a chargesheet, was filed against Singhal, her husband Abhishek Jha, and her chartered accountant Suman Kumar was filed before a special court in Ranchi in July.
The ED on May 6 had conducted searches at several properties linked to the three, and said it had recovered Rs 19.76 crore cash. Singhal and her CA Kumar were subsequently arrested and were sent to judicial custody by the court of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Jha, who has filed an anticipatory bail petition in court, owns the Pulse Hospital in Ranchi, where much of the “proceeds of crime” was allegedly used.
The ED told the court that Singhal got five per cent “illegal commission” in development projects in Khunti from funds she disbursed for the works under MGNREGA.
It also accused that Singhal had two PAN (permanent account numbers) and an amount of Rs 73.81 lakh was found deposited in her ICICI bank accounts.
Of the Rs 73.81 lakh, Rs 61.5 lakh was found to have been deposited between 2009-11, which constituted “proceeds of crime”, the ED alleged.
The agency also alleged that between 2005 and 2012-13, the IAS officer bought 13 ICICI insurance policies and paid a premium of Rs 80.81 lakh, much beyond her declared Income Tax Returns (ITR) for the period.
The case against Singhal came to light when the ED was probing the embezzlement of MGNREGA funds case in Khunti against Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, a junior engineer in the district. Sinha, along with three other district officials, are named as accused in the original case.
The ED complaint alleged that in “connivance” with Sinha, the IAS officer embezzled funds in different development projects, and in return she received “illegal commission from Sinha in cash”.
It also said that Singhal kept her superiors “in the dark” about the use of funds.
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The agency also investigated bank accounts of Pulse Sanjeevani hospital. Between 2012-13 and 2019-20, the company showed total turnover of Rs 69.17 crore, however, total credit in the bank accounts was Rs 163.59 crore, the ED alleged.
The investigating agency also alleged that she had invested in a house in Ranchi for Rs 43 lakh, along with the accusation that one Alok Sarawgi had received Rs 3 crore in cash in the year 2016 from Singhal’s CA Suman Kumar.