Jharkhand: ED seizes Rs. 3 crore linked to IAS Singhal
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) seized Rs. 3 crore in cash in connection with the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against now-suspended IAS officer Pooja Singhal. The cash was seized on Friday during a raid at the premises of one Mohammed Ezhar Ansari in Hazaribagh, Jharkhand. Ansari reportedly runs a group of private companies.
Why does this story matter?
- The ED arrested Singhal—former Jharkhand mining secretary—in May 2022 on charges of money laundering related to cases of alleged irregularities in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) and the mining sector.
- The development can prove to be worrisome for the chief minister and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief, Hemant Soren, who is also on ED's radar in an illegal mining case.
Raid also conducted against former coal and sand in charge
The ED sleuths said that among the seized cash, most notes were of Rs. 500 denomination, and a few notes were of Rs. 2,000 denomination. They said the raid was conducted as part of a probe into the anomalies in the captive coal consumption case. The officials also raided the premises of Jharkhand's former coal and sand in charge, Ashok Kumar Singh.
ED attached property worth Rs. 83 crore linked to Singhal
In December last year, the ED attached immovable property worth Rs. 82.77 crore linked to Singhal, a 2,000-batch IAS officer. Her businessman husband, Abhishek Jha, and others, also under the scanner, were subjected to ED's raids in May 2022. The ED had accused Singhal of irregularities while serving as the deputy commissioner/district magistrate of Chatra, Khunti, and Palamu between 2007 and 2013.
ED arrested Jharkhand's former junior engineer in 2020
The ED probe against Singhal and others pertains to a money-laundering case in which the ED arrested Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, a former Jharkhand government junior engineer, in West Bengal in June 2020. He was booked in the PMLA case in 2012 based on FIRs filed against him by Jharkhand's vigilance bureau on charges of swindling public money and investing it in his name.
Soren accused of extending mining lease to himself
The Opposition speculates that the action is intended to corner Soren, whom the ED accuses of violating electoral law by extending a stone quarry mining lease to himself while holding public office. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had previously written to Jharkhand Governor Ramesh Bais, recommending Soren's disqualification from the state Assembly for misusing his position.