Three people, including two women, have been arrested by the ED in connection with an alleged multi-crore ponzi and investment fraud scheme that duped many investors in Telangana, the agency said on Wednesday.
It said Nowhera Shaikh, Molly Thomas and Biju Thomas were placed under arrest under the provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) on Tuesday in the case related to the Heera group of companies.
They have been sent to seven-day Enforcement Directorate (ED) custody by a special court in Hyderabad, it said. The three were already in jail in a police case and the ED sought the court permission to take them in its custody.
The case pertains to the fraudulent money circulation scheme perpetrated by the Heera group in Hyderabad and the ED filed a criminal case of money laundering in the instance based on a Telangana Police FIR and few other complaints.
“Heera group is accused of fraudulently collecting investments from lakhs of innocent victims on the promise of providing very high returns of about 36 per cent by indulging in gold trading among others. The scheme was unsustainable and the group has defaulted in the repayment of the principal amount and promised returns to its investors,” the agency said in a statement.
The accused, it said, fraudulently executed a money circulation scheme and multiple FIRs have been registered by aggrieved depositors across the country against Shaikh and others.
The ED found that the accused persons and their group companies have collected more than ₹3,000 crore from a total of 1,72,114 investors across India on the pretext of investments.
“Deposits were also collected from victims in Hyderabad, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, and other states in India and also from NRIs in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries,” it said.
Investigations revealed that the group companies do not have any substantial business activity by which they can earn the promised profits or returns. Shaikh and others have diverted the collected amounts to their personal accounts through their company bank accounts/benamis for wrongful gain and amassed huge movable and immovable properties by utilising the diverted funds, the ED claimed.
It charged that Shaikh operated 24 entities in the name of Heera group and operated 182 accounts in different banks in various parts of the country.
“10 bank accounts were also opened in countries like UAE and Saudi Arabia,” the agency added in the statement.
Talking about the role of Biju Thomas, ED noted that he was the MD of Suvan Technologies Solutions India Pvt Ltd, Kerala. He developed software for the Heera group of companies and all the account details are maintained by his firm.
Molly Thomas worked as the personal assistant to Shaikh. “ED is questioning the accused persons in connection with their different companies, bank accounts and multiple properties identified across the country. Further investigations are under progress,” the agency said.