The ED conducted raids at multiple premises, including that of Jharkhand Mining Secretary Pooja Singhal and her family, in connection with a money laundering probe linked to the alleged embezzlement of over Rs 18 crore MGNREGA funds in Khunti district of the state during 2008-11, officials said.
The agency seized a total of Rs 19.31 crore cash from two premises that were searched in state capital Ranchi.
About Rs 17.51 crore cash has been recovered from the premises of a Ranchi-based Chartered Accountant-cum-financial advisor whose links with the IAS officer and her family are under the scanner, they said.
Around Rs 1.8 crore cash has also been recovered from another location in the city, they said.
The officials said a number of “incriminating documents that indicate political and higher bureaucracy links with alleged illegal mining activities in the state” have been seized.
The raids that were continuing till late evening are being carried out under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) at about 18 premises in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi, Punjab, and a few other states, they said.
The officials said the premises of Singhal, an IAS officer and secretary of the Department of Mines and Geology of the Jharkhand government, in state capital, Ranchi, are also being covered as part of the action.
Singhal is a 2000 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and was posted as the deputy commissioner in Khunti district earlier.
A few other locations in Ranchi, including a multi-speciality hospital, were also raided by ED officials who were provided a security escort by the personnel of the central paramilitary force CRPF.
Documents recovered during the raids show that the “declared value” of the hospital premise is Rs 3 crore, they said, adding the promoters of the facility and their links are being probed further.
BJP MP from Jharkhand’s Godda Nishikant Dubey alleged that the raids show that the state government led by Chief Minister Hemant Soren has “left the earlier Madhu Koda government behind when it comes to corruption.” Koda was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case in 2009.
“This shows the level of corruption in the state…nothing gets done in the state without money and bribes,” he told PTI.
The MP said probe agencies would better know about the links of this case with that of a recent Election Commission notice that was issued against Soren in connection with his owning a mining lease in the state.
“That is for the agencies to probe…how can I say about it?” he said.
Reacting on the ED searches, Jharkhand Chief Minister Soren said days are not far off when “ED and other central agencies will reach to Mukhiya and Sarpanch also”.
“The Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to frame a new political definition…Their intention is not hidden…,” Soren said alleging that the BJP has become desperate after losing political battle in Jharkhand and could “stoop to any level”.
Refuting the charges, the BJP said the central agencies are working independently and the Centre has zero tolerance to corruption.
The raids pertain to a money-laundering case in which former junior engineer in the Jharkhand government, Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, was arrested by the ED on June 17, 2020 from West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district after he was booked by the agency under the PMLA.
The federal agency took cognisance of 16 FIRs and charge sheets filed by the Jharkhand Vigilance Bureau against Sinha that alleged the accused abused his official position and indulged in embezzlement of Rs 18.06 crore of government funds by way of forgery and misappropriation.
Sinha was booked by the vigilance bureau under criminal sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) pertaining to cheating and corruption for allegedly defrauding public money and investing it in his own name as well as in the name of his family members while working as junior engineer from April 1, 2008 to March 21, 2011.
The said money was earmarked for execution of government projects under MNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) scheme in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.
The ED also filed a charge sheet against Sinha in December, 2018 and a special court in Ranchi subsequently issued summons to him for appearance before it which he did not honour, the agency had said earlier.
The court then issued a non-bailable warrant against Sinha on the basis of which a manhunt was launched against him by the ED and he was arrested from his hideout in West Bengal.
A supplementary charge sheet was later filed against him by the agency in August, 2020 after his questioning.
“Accused Ram Binod Prasad Sinha used to regularly transfer government project funds to his personal accounts as well as in the account of his family members and thus generated illegitimate income out of his criminal misconduct while working as a public servant.” “It was found that movable and immovable properties have been acquired by the accused (Sinha) in his name as well as in the name of his family members,” the ED had then said.
His assets worth Rs 4.28 crore were also attached by the ED.