MGNREGA funds fraud: ED raids multiple locations in Jharkhand

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New Delhi/Ranchi: 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.

About Rs 17 crore cash has been recovered from the premises of a Ranchi-based Chartered Accountant, officials said, adding that banknote counters have been brought in by the agency to ascertain the exact amount.

Around Rs 1.8 crore cash has also been recovered from another location in the city, they said. The searches 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.

Officials said the premises of Singhal, an IAS officer and secretary of the department of mines and geology of the Jharkhand government, in the 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 the Khunti district earlier.

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

BJP MP from Jharkhand’s Godda Nishikant Dubey alleged that the raids show that the state government led by Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren has “left the earlier Madhu Koda government behind when it comes to corruption.” Koda was arrested by the ED in a money laundering case in 2009.

The raids pertain to a money-laundering case in which former junior engineer in Jharkhand government, Ram Binod Prasad Sinha, was arrested on June 17, 2020 from the North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after he was booked by it 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 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. 

 





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