The ED on Saturday arrested a chartered accountant under the anti-money laundering law in a case linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Jharkhand’s Khunti district as part of which state mining secretary and IAS officer Pooja Singhal and others were raided, officials said.

Suman Kumar was taken into custody under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) around 5 pm in Ranchi. Officials alleged that the CA was “evasive in his replies” with regard to the alleged recovery of cash to the tune of Rs 17.79 crore from his premises in Ranchi on Friday.

He would be produced before a local court where the Enforcement Directorate would seek his further custody, they said. The ED has alleged that Kumar has links with IAS officer Pooja Singhal and her family and was a financial advisor to them.

The federal agency seized a total of Rs 19.31 crore in cash during the raids that were launched on May 6 at multiple premises in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal. It also recorded the preliminary statement of Singhal during the searches.

The ED action pertains to a money-laundering case in which former junior engineer in the Jharkhand government, Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, was arrested by the agency 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 cognizance 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 in 2017 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) in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.

Singhal, a 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was posted as the deputy commissioner in Khunti district earlier.

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.

It is understood that the agency obtained links of alleged illegal mining irregularities and embezzlement of government funds after this questioning, ED sources said.

“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.

The officials had said a number of “incriminating documents that indicate political and higher bureaucracy links with alleged illegal mining activities in the state” were seized after Friday’s raids.

A few other locations in Ranchi, including a multi-specialty hospital, were also raided by ED officials who were provided a security escort by the personnel of the central paramilitary force CRPF.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemat Soren while reacting to the ED raids had said that “the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying to frame a new political definition…their intention is not hidden” and added that the party was “stooping to any level” after losing the political battle in the state.

The Election Commission (EC) has recently issued a notice to Soren seeking his response on owning a mining lease in the state.

The BJP had rejected Soren’s charges saying the central agencies are working independently and the Centre has zero tolerance to corruption.

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