UPDATE as of 11.38am
Dubai/Sharjah/Ras Al Khaimah: Hundreds of investors in the UAE are believed to have been affected by the Heera Group ponzi scam which has left a trail of devastated lives across India and the Middle East.
On Wednesday, several investors trooped down to Heera Group's office in Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai looking for answers.
The office, however, remained locked and phones of all their representatives in the UAE had been switched off.
Visits to their offices in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah also drew a blank.
On October 16, the arrest of an entrepreneur-cum-politician in India has sparked panic.
Dr Aalima Nowhera Shaik, chairperson of Heera Group, was taken into custody in Hyderabad on Tuesday afternoon after investors took to the street in the city demanding that they get their money back.
They told us they will invest our money in gold and textile and give us monthly profits. I joined them sometime back by investing Dh100,000. Initially, they paid me around Dh3,000 monthly but soon the payments dried out.”
- Heera Group investor in the UAE
Meanwhile, scores of investors contacted Gulf News recounting how they've lost their entire lifetime savings in the ponzi schemes peddled by Heera Group as "halal" investment programmes.
An Indian who lives in Abu Dhabi said he is worried about the Dh500,000 he invested with Heera Group’s Jumeirah Lake Towers office.
Another investor who works in Dubai said he fears he had become an unwitting victim of an elaborate Ponzi scheme. “I lost Dh200,000. It was all I had. I am ruined,” he told Gulf News.
Some investors said they are weighing legal action against the company. “We have no other choice,” said a Dubai-based businessman.
35% annual returns
Investors said the company promised them up to 35 per cent annual returns.
“They told us they will invest our money in gold and textile and give us monthly profits. I joined them sometime back by investing Dh100,000. Initially they paid me around Dh3,000 monthly but soon the payments dried out,” he said.
Dr Nowhera Shaikh, 45, is also the founder of All India Mahila Empowerment Party, an Indian political party she launched in November 2017.
Earlier on Tuesday, Hyderabad police held a press conference announcing Dr Nowhera Shaikh’s arrest.
Thousands of investors
Attracted by unusually high returns, thousands across India had invested in the various schemes run by the Heera Group over the last few years, said Hyderabad police Commissioner Anjani Kumar.
Last month, hundreds of Heera Group investors held public protests in Hyderabad. Earlier, market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) said the activities of Heera Gold were in the nature of Ponzi or multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes.
It’s not immediately known how many of Heera Group investors are from the UAE.
Calls made to Heera Group’s office in JLT remain unanswered.