Jharkhand IAS Pooja Singhal paid crores for husband's hospital: ED
IAS officer Pooja Singhal allegedly connived with district officials in Jharkhand to embezzle Rs. 18 crore, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) said on Thursday. The ED alleged that Singhal deposited lakhs in her account from the said "crime," and used it to build her husband's hospital in Ranchi, The Indian Express reported. Singhal, at the time of her arrest, was Jharkhand's mining secretary.
Why does this story matter?
- In a worrying development for Jharkhand Mukti Morcha's Hemant Soren, the ED had arrested Singhal in a money laundering case on May 11.
- Singhal, according to several reports, has been involved in multiple wrongdoings but was shielded by her close proximity to several politicians.
- Fresh allegations by the ED may create more tension for Soren, who has been under the agency's radar as well.
ED probes into MNREGA funds embezzlement
In their prosecution complaint, ED said that as the Deputy Commissioner of Khunti district (between February 2009 to July 2010), Singhal embezzled Rs. 18.06 crore from the state exchequer. Purportedly, she deposited Rs. 61.50 lakh from the "proceeds of the crime" in her bank account over three years "above her known sources of income." The funds embezzled were reportedly reserved for MNREGA.
Funds directed to husband's hospital: ED
ED's complaint against Singhal alleges that she diverted the "proceeds of crime" to her husband Abhishek Jha's Pulse Hospital in Ranchi. The ED had filed a complaint against Jha and Singhal's chartered accountant Suman Kumar in July. During searches at several properties linked to the three, officials discovered Rs. 19.76 crore in cash and soon arrested Jha and Kumar as well.
How were funds diverted to the hospital?
The agency alleged that her husband's hospital "heavily undervalued" their balance sheets to "hide laundered money." "The main decision-maker dealing with me on behalf of Pulse Hospital was Mrs Pooja Singhal, IAS, wife of Abhishek Jha," the construction in-charge told ED. He reportedly admitted to having received Rs. 2 crore in cash from her husband for buying construction material and paying fees to laborers.
Funds directed to other development projects, claims agency
According to reports, ED alleged that Singhal got an "illegal commission" of 5% from MNREGA funds disbursed to other projects. ED alleged that Singhal kept two PANs. In her ICICI account, the agency found Rs. 73.81 lakh, of which Rs. 61.5 lakh were deposited between 2009 to 2011. Singhal allegedly hid the diversion of MNREGA funds from her superiors.
What else did the ED find?
Singhal reportedly bought 13 insurance policies and paid a premium "much beyond" her declared income between 2005 and 2012-13. Additionally, she worked with then Khunti junior engineer Ram Binod Sinha to embezzle funds into different projects and took "illegal commission" in return. Jha's hospital showed a turnover of Rs. 69 crore between 2012-13 to 2019-20, despite the total credits received being Rs. 163 crore.