Jharkhand IAS officer Pooja Singhal sent to judicial custody till June 8 in money laundering case

Pooja Singhal, who served as the state mining department secretary, was arrested on the previous day by the ED.

A special PMLA court on Wednesday sent Pooja Singhal, the suspended IAS officer from Jharkhand, to judicial custody till June 8 in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds, said a lawyer of the Enforcement Directorate which is investigating it.

The bureaucrat was in the ED custody for 14 days.

After being produced before the special PMLA court of Prbhat Kumar Sharma by the ED, Singhal was sent to Birsa Munda Central Jail at Hotwar in Ranchi.

“Singhal on completion of 14 days in ED custody was produced today before the special PMLA court and was remanded to judicial custody till June 8 as per court orders. She was sent to Hotwar Jail,” special prosecutor of the ED, BMP Singh, told PTI.

Singhal will be produced before the court of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on June 8 via video conferencing.

The ED requested the court to grant permission to its sleuths to interrogate her in jail whenever required.

“I argued that it is a larger conspiracy and we have to interrogate her again. There is a legal provision that we (ED) cannot get her in ED custody for more than 14 days. So we submitted a prayer to the court to order the jail superintendent that whenever required we can question her. The court asked us to file a separate petition when such requirement arises,” Singh said.

On the request of Singhal’s counsel for her medical check-up, the court said this can be done by a jail doctor, Singh claimed.

“We will seek the court’s permission to interrogate her in jail as it seems that there is a larger conspiracy. Examination of the digital devices of the officer is being conducted. The investigation is in a crucial stage with the emergence of new evidence in the case,” the ED counsel said.

Singhal’s chartered accountant Suman Kumar was earlier sent to judicial custody by the court of PMLA in connection with the money laundering case.

Kumar was also in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate for 13 days.

The 44-year-old IAS officer was suspended by the Jharkhand government on May 12 as part of the procedure undertaken, in case of a government servant being arrested in a criminal case, within 24 hours of the receipt of information.

Singhal, who served as the state mining department secretary, was arrested on the previous day by the ED.

The agency had produced her before the special PMLA court which remanded her in the ED custody for five days from May 12, and later extended twice till Wednesday.

Based on the “incriminating materials” seized during searches, several suspected persons, including district mining officers, have been called for questioning.

Earlier, the agency had informed the court that the digital devices of both Singhal and her CA, which were seized, had been sent to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory.

ED is also examining all details related to Pulse Hospital, allegedly owned by the bureaucrat and her family, the construction of the facility, purchase of equipment as it is suspected that the medical facility was used to “launder” money.

She was arrested in the money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds and some other suspicious financial transactions after the ED raided her premises on May 6 along with that of her businessman husband Abhishek Jha, the chartered accountant and others.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005 (MGNREGA) is aimed at enhancing the livelihood security of households in rural areas of the country by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year.

Suman Kumar was arrested following the seizure of more than Rs 17.79 crore in cash allegedly from his residential and office premises.

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