J’khand IAS Officer Suspension: ED Presents Sealed Report on Shell Cos, Other Info Before HC

The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday presented before the Jharkhand High Court a sealed report containing information of shell companies and other documents concerning suspended IAS officer Puja Singhal. Singhal is in ED custody in connection with money laundering cases linked to alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds.

The court was hearing a PIL that claimed several shell companies were formed to launder money embezzled from different welfare funds meant for Jharkhand. It had earlier directed the ED to file the report in a sealed cover before the office of the registrar general.

The division bench of Chief Justice Dr Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan Prasad adjourned the matter to be heard on May 19. The petitioner’s counsel Rajeev Kumar told the court that shell companies have been formed and are said to be operating from Patna, Delhi, Haryana , Chhatisgarh, Cuttack and Kolkata.

Money has been laundered and invested in real estate like commercial buildings, malls and restaurants, he argued. The ED also informed the court that massive bundling of funds in MGNREGA schemes took place while Singhal was posted as the Khunti deputy commissioner.

As many as 16 FIRs make mention of money laundering, and this fact has also been accepted by some witnesses in the course of investigation, the ED’s counsel said. Money, which was laundered, also reached the political echelons in the state who are in power, the counsel added.

The petitioner has also alleged that Chief Minister Hemant Soren and his acquaintances are involved in the racket of running shell companies. Singhal’s chartered accountant Suman Kumar, who has also been arrested, has confirmed the existence of such shell companies, the central probe agency told the high court.

A special PMLA court had on Monday extended the ED custody of the 44-year-old bureaucrat by four more days till May 20, after the directorate first took her into five days’ custody on May 12 post her arrest on May 11. The IAS officer was suspended by the Jharkhand government on May 12 as part of the procedure undertaken, in case of a government servant being arrested in a criminal case, within 24 hours of the receipt of information.

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