Jharkhand mining secretary Pooja Singhal was arrested Wednesday by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case linked to alleged embezzlement of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme funds in Khunti and other suspicious financial transactions, officials said.
They said the 2000-batch Indian Administrative Service officer was taken into custody under criminal sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act after two consecutive days of questioning by the federal probe agency.
Sources claimed Singhal was "evasive" in her replies, and hence was arrested.
The ED produced her before a special PMLA court and took her on remand for five days.
ED counsel BMP Singh said Singhal has been sent to jail and will be under remand from Thursday.
She had arrived at the probe agency's regional office in the Hinoo area of Ranchi around 10:40 am for the second day of questioning and was arrested around 5 pm.
Singhal was at the ED office for about nine hours on Tuesday where her statement was recorded.
The statement of her businessman husband, Abhsihek Jha, too has been recorded in the case on at least on three occasions, the sources said.
Reacting to the arrest, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren said the state government "will initiate whatever legal action it has to take in this subject".
He said the alleged irregularities "occurred during BJP tenure and that should be probed."
It was during the BJP tenure that a clean chit was given to her in 2017. All those who gave her the clean chit should be probed. "You (BJP) make her do the wrong and you (also) give her a clean chit," the CM said.
The BJP, on the other hand, accused the JMM-led coalition of promoting corruption and demanded suspension of the arrested IAS officer.
BJP state president and Rajya Sabha MP Deepak Prakash alleged that the administration headed by Soren has broken all records of corruption.
This is the second arrest in this case after Suman Kumar, a chartered accountant and financial advisor allegedly linked to the couple, was held by the ED on May 7, a day after the agency raided their premises and some other locations in different states.
The money laundering investigation against Singhal and others pertains to a case in which former Jharkhand government junior engineer Ram Binod Prasad Sinha was arrested by the agency on June 17, 2020, from West Bengal.
He was booked under the PMLA in 2012 on the basis of state vigilance bureau FIRs against him.
Sinha was booked by the vigilance bureau under criminal sections of the Indian Penal Code 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 a junior engineer from April 1, 2008, to March 21, 2011.
The said money was earmarked for the execution of government projects under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act) in Khunti district, the agency had earlier said.
Sinha told the ED that “he paid five per cent commission (out of the defrauded funds) to the district administration”.
During the period, the ED had alleged, charges of "irregularities" were made against Singhal while she served as the deputy commissioner/district magistrate of Chatra, Khunti and Palamu between 2007 and 2013.
The agency, during the May 6 raids, seized over Rs 17 crore in cash from CA Suman Kumar's premises. The total cash seizure in this case including all locations is Rs 19.31 crore, officials had said.
The agency had claimed, in a remand note presented to the court for Kumar, that Singhal and her husband received "huge" cash deposits -- to the tune of Rs 1.43 crore -- over and above her salary in their accounts, during the period she faced charges of irregularities while being posted as the DM of various districts in the state.
The ED also told a special PMLA court in Ranchi that the IAS officer allegedly transferred Rs 16.57 lakh from her "personal account" to those controlled or owned by CA Kumar.
The IAS officer, the ED had told the court, purchased 13 policies and paid a premium of Rs 80.81 lakh between 2005-06 and 2012-13 fiscal and later "closed them (policies) pre-maturely and received closure amount of Rs 84.64 lakh."
The agency is also looking at the business transactions and other finances of a multi-speciality hospital based in Ranchi which is allegedly managed by Singhal's husband.
ED officials had earlier said they seized a number of "incriminating documents that indicate political and higher bureaucracy links with alleged illegal mining activities in the state" during the raids.
Independent MLA and former BJP minister of Jharkhand, Saryu Roy, said that action is being taken against Singhal in the same MGNREGA scam of Rs 24 crore in which the “2014-19 double engine government” gave her a clean chit.
He tweeted: “In this, she is accused of taking 5 per cent commission, which is Rs 1.2 crore but Rs 19 crore was recovered at her CA's place. Is this the money (amassed) from the time of those giving clean chit?"