Ranchi: Pooja Singhal, the Jharkhand mining and industry secretary, who was being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) since Tuesday in connection with a five-year-old money laundering case, was arrested by the agency Wednesday evening, government sources told ThePrint.
The case relates to the alleged diversion of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme funds worth Rs 18.6 crore during Singhal’s tenure as the deputy commissioner of Jharkhand’s Khunti district between February 2009 and July 2010.
Since Friday, the ED has raided close to two dozen locations, including properties linked to Singhal and her family members. The ED teams also recovered a huge stack of cash worth Rs 19.35 crore from the house of Suman Kumar, a Ranchi-based chartered accountant, who allegedly has links to Singhal and her family. Kumar was arrested by the ED on 7 May.
Among the properties raided in four states, including Jharkhand, is the Pulse Sanjeevani Healthcare Private Hospital, where Singhal’s husband Abhishek Jha is the managing director. Jha has also been questioned by the ED, government sources said.
Top level government sources also told ThePrint that the arrest could now set the ball rolling for Singhal’s suspension.
“We can initiate action against only under two conditions – either if we get a formal report from the ED or she is arrested by the ED,” a senior Jharkhand government officer told ThePrint.
The ED raids are happening at a time when the Opposition BJP in Jharkhand has approached state Governor Ramesh Bais and sought CM Hemant Soren’s disqualification for allegedly misusing his position to grant himself a mining lease, and his wife an industrial lease, in Ranchi.
This allegedly happened during Singhal’s tenure as mining and industries secretary. She is also the chairperson of the Jharkhand State Mineral Development Corporation.
This is not the first controversy in which Singhal’s name has cropped up.
As the ED’s investigation into the money laundering case is unfolding, a string of other glaring irregularities allegedly involving Singhal are also being revealed, sources in the agency told ThePrint.
Despite this, the 2000-batch IAS officer, a millionaire according to her own immovable property returns filed with the Centre, has enjoyed top positions in successive Jharkhand governments, headed by chief ministers belonging to various political parties — be it the BJP’s Arjun Munda, Raghubar Das or the present CM, Hemant Soren of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).