The Enforcement Directorate on Friday said it has attached properties to the tune of Rs 299 crore of Nowhera Sheikh of Heera Group including 96 immovable properties spread across several states in its probe into the ponzi scam.
An ED official said in New Delhi that the agency has attached properties to the tune of Rs 299.99 crore under the provisions of money laundering act. The official said that it has attached properties of Sheikh consisting of 96 immovable properties located in Telangana, Kerala, Maharashtra, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh worth Rs 277.29 crore in the form of agricultural lands, commercial plots, residential buildings, commercial complexes and balances in bank accounts worth Rs 22.69 crore.
The ED has filed a case of money laundering on the basis of FIRs registered by Central Crime Station, Hyderabad, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Police against Sheikh of Heera Group of Companies and others on the allegation of illegally collecting deposits from lakhs of investors under the guise of high returns.
The official said there are multiple FIRs registered across the country against Heera Group of Companies. He said during probe it was found that Sheikh incorporated multiple companies under Heera Group of Companies and collected an amount of approximately Rs 5,600 crore as unauthorized deposits from around 1,72,000 investors (IBG Members) across the country by engaging a network of marketing executives and direct selling agents with a false promise of paying high rate of returns i.e. 3 per cent per month (36 per cent per annum).
“She floated multiple schemes and extensively advertised the schemes to lure the victims. For this purpose, Sheikh started 24 firms or entities under Heera Group and 182 bank accounts were opened in different banks at different parts of the countries in the name of these 24 entities,” the official said.
Further 10 bank accounts were also opened in foreign countries such as UAE, Saudi Arabia etc. For collecting these deposits, Sheikh does not possess any valid permission either under Banking Regulation Act, Companies Act, RBI Act or from any other government agency such as SEBI for collecting deposits.
He said Sheikh started gold, food and textile trading businesses only to create the impression that she was earning legitimate profits, but in reality, the payouts to the new members were simply being funded from the cash flows generated from new members/investments.
“The volume of business in her gold, textile and food marts was minuscule and not sufficient to justify the high returns promised by her,” he said. The official pointed out that during the probe it was also found that Sheikh along with her family members and close associates diverted the depositors’ money to their personal accounts and amassed huge movable and immovable assets for wrongful personal gain.
“The diverted funds were further layered into various shell companies and in the form of ‘benami’ assets so as to ultimately cheat lakhs of innocent victims and to launder these crime proceeds for personal benefit,” he said.