NAT 190723 INT Sami Sayed AKK-13-1564306370060
Sami Syed says his lawyers have already met with investigating officers of India’s Economic Offences Wing in Thane, Mumbai, to clear his name. Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai-based Indian businessman and director of the T10 league, Sami Syed, has denied benefiting from Heera Group, a Hyderabad-based company accused of duping thousands of investors through a sophisticated Ponzi scheme.

Syed was recently summoned by India’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) which is probing the multimillion dollar scam as Heera Group was the title sponsor of the ten-over-a-side cricket league when it made its debut in the UAE in 2017.

“It has been found that approximately Rs5 billion (Dh267 million) was paid by Heera Group to T10 organisers in 2017, the EOW notice said, asking Syed to appear before the agency’s office in rural Thane in Maharashtra and record his statement with relevant documents, including bank transaction details and a copy of the league’s agreement with Heera Group.

Watch what Sami Syed has to say Mazhar Farooqui, Features Editor and Sonia Shah, Videographer

Syed, who was briefly general secretary of a political party launched by Heera Group’s CEO Nowhera Shaik in India, said his lawyers have already met EOW officials on his behalf to clear his name in the scandal.

“Yes, I introduced Nowhera Shaik to the organisers of the cricket league but I have nothing to do with this controversy,” said the 40-year-old who heads the Dubai-based Phoenix Group of companies which specialises in filling and packaging machinery.

“As marketing director, my role was limited to marketing the inaugural edition of the tournament. I was not involved in cash dealings and am more than willing to handover my bank records to any agency for scrutiny. I have nothing to hide,” Syed said in an interview with Gulf News.

Nowhera Shaik who had several businesses in the UAE and India has been in jail since October 2018.

It is not immediately clear how much she forked out for the sponsorship deal. A letter signed by the TTen Sports Management which owns and organises the cricket league, however, states that “Heera Group did not pay the full amount of the agreed sponsorship”.

Syed said he wouldn’t have associated with the company if he knew it was running a Ponzi scheme.

He said he first met Nowhera Shaik at Gulfood in Dubai in 2012 when he was participating in the annual food and beverage trade exhibitions.

“She came to my stall and started shopping for machines the way one would shop for groceries. She bought food packaging machines worth over Dh300,000 on the spot. In subsequent months, she bought machines worth nearly a million dirhams,” Syed recalled.

“When we launched the T10 league in the UAE, Nowhera offered to be the title sponsor of the event. We readily agreed. “She had food grain factories in Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah, and appeared to be a successful entrepreneur. All her businesses looked legitimate. In 2017, she launched the Mahila Empowerment Party (MEP) in India and assumed the position of President. She offered me the post of general secretary. I took it up but fell out with her when I saw her splurging money on Bollywood stars to promote her political party. When I questioned the source of her seemingly infinite wealth and offered to quit, she got angry. However, before I could put in my papers, she fired me from the party and launched a vicious campaign against me.”

“I am glad that I am not associated with the party any more. A lot of people mistakenly link me with the Heera Group. I have said this before and I say it again. I have nothing to do with it,” he said.