ED arrests IAS officer Pooja Singhal in money laundering case
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal following two days of questioning in a money laundering case. The case is related to the suspected misappropriation of MGNREGA funds in Khunti and other allegations, as per officials. A 2000 batch IAS officer, Singhal has been booked under relevant sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
- The development comes at the time when Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren is facing accusations of favoring his wife to get an industrial lease in Ranchi.
- The opposition BJP recently approached Governor Ramesh Bais and demanded the CM's removal from office for allegedly abusing his power.
- Notably, this is said to have occurred during Singhal's tenure as mines and industries secretary.
Singhal and others are being investigated by the ED for alleged money laundering. Previously, the agency arrested a former junior engineer in the Jharkhand government, Ram Binod, in the case in 2020. The primary allegations in the case include defrauding the public money and investing it elsewhere. The funds were designated for the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Earlier, the ED had raided several locations related to the case including properties linked to Singhal and her family members. The case pertains to the alleged diversion of funds worth Rs 18.6 crore—allocated under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA)—during Singhal's tenure as deputy commissioner of Jharkhand's Khunti district in 2009-10.
This is not the first time Singhal's name has come up in a scandal. According to ThePrint, multiple files detail her alleged wrongdoings. However, her proximity to prominent politicians reportedly shielded her from facing action. As per the report, she has held key positions in consecutive Jharkhand governments led by chief ministers from various political parties.
Singhal, 44, hails from Uttar Pradesh. She did her MBA before becoming an IAS officer in 2000 at an age of 21. According to ThePrint, Singhal was extremely ambitious from the start. "She knew whom to approach...her PR was very strong. She had developed good contacts with MLAs from across parties," the report said quoting a retired officer.