Jharkhand MGNREGA funds diversion: ED recovers Rs 18 cr in cash in raids across 8 locations

The Enforcement Directorate on Friday conducted raids at multiple premises, including those of Jharkhand Mining Secretary Pooja Singhal, across eight locations in Jharkhand and elsewhere in connection with a case of money laundering it is probing in a matter associated with diversion of MGNREGA funds in the state.

According to the ED, during the raids, which were spread across Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal and Punjab, various incriminating documents regarding assets and properties allegedly owned by Singhal have been recovered. These include a multi-speciality hospital in Ranchi, sources said. The agency has also recovered Rs 18 crore in cash from a Ranchi-based chartered accountant’s house. Sources in the ED said the CA is associated with Singhal.

Though the ED case is an old one, the raids come at a time when Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren is facing allegations of corruption for allotting a mining lease to himself and an industrial plot to his wife.

The ED raids come a day after the Election Commission of India issued a notice to Soren’s brother and Dumka MLA Basant Soren in the mining lease issue. Earlier, the ECI, which is examining whether Basant’s case can lead to his disqualification as an MLA, had sent a notice to the CM, seeking his stand on the charges against him.

The ED case is based on a 2017 FIR registered by the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Ranchi, against Jharkhand government junior engineer Ram Binod Prasad Sinha for alleged embezzlement of public money to the tune of Rs 18.06 crores. The embezzlement is said to have occurred between 2008 and 2011.

“Investigation under the PMLA revealed that Sinha used to regularly transfer funds meant for various projects to his personal accounts and those of his family members and thus generated illegitimate income out of his criminal misconduct while working as a public servant. It is revealed that movable and immovable properties have been acquired by the accused in his name as well as in the name of his family members,” the ED had said in a statement earlier.

Subsequently, the ED had attached assets worth over Rs 4.8 crore belonging to Sinha and even filed two prosecution complaints against him in 2020. The ED had then made a prayer for prosecuting the accused for money laundering, and confiscation of the attached assets worth Rs 1.49 crores in Arunachal Pradesh Mineral Development and Trading Corporation.

“Earlier, a prosecution complaint was filed against the accused for money laundering, and acquiring assets to the tune of Rs 2.79 crores,” the ED had said in a statement.

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