Nowhera Shaikh, 44, the managing director of Heera Group arrested for allegedly cheating nearly 150 people from Mumbai and surrounding areas, has told investigators that losses she suffered following demonetisation and imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rendered her unable to pay dividends on investments made by people.
Citing the impact of demonetisation, carried out in November 2016, and then implementation of the GST regime in July 2017, Shaikh has said that by early 2018 she was forced to stop paying monthly dividends, leading investors to approach the police.
More than 150 people from Mumbai and Thane have made police complaints against Shaikh, and FIRs have been registered against her at several police stations across the country, it is learnt.
An officer associated with the case said that during interrogation, Shaikh has said that she had been paying out dividends for nearly a decade, but fell back on payments since early 2017.
“In May 2017, she issued a circular to her investors, stating that she will pay quarterly dividends, which she managed for some time,” the officer said. “But even the quarterly payments stopped since early this year.”
The officer said that during interrogation, Shaikh replies confidently and asks them to check her bank statements and prior investigations if they do not believe her.
“Her Mumbai agent, Salim Ansari, has also been named in the FIR. Nearly 20,000 people had put in money through him. Like Ansari, there are several agents working for her in the city, so the number of investors must be quite high,” the officer said.
The officer said Shaikh targeted investors from the Muslim community, promising them “interest-free, halaal” investment, as permitted by Islam. Interest in most forms is forbidden by Islam.
Arrested on October 26 after an FIR was registered against her at Pydhonie police station, Shaikh is currently in the custody of the Economic Offences Wing (EOW), which is investigating the matter, until November 9. In its earlier remand application, the EOW had said that nearly 15 companies had been formed, with Shaikh as director, since 2010. These include Heera Gold, Heera Textile and others, in sectors such as construction, groceries, and tours and travels – she has told the police that her companies are named Heera after herself.
The police said 50 bank accounts belonging to her in various banks have been frozen.
Shaikh, daughter of a fruit exporter from Tirupati, has six younger siblings and married a Hyderabad resident named named Salman Qureshi in 2007. They divorced in 2014, the police said, adding that she did not clear Class X Board exam and she has a degree from an open university in Colombo, reportedly acquired online.
An officer said Shaikh taught at madrassas in Tirupati and later formed trusts with other women and started doing business in buying and selling of gold in the late-1990s. “She registered them as companies only in 2010,” the officer said.
The police said there have been two Income Tax raids against her in the past and an investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office. She reportedly owns a BMW car and a flat in Banjara Hills locality of Hyderabad.