The Hyderabad Metropolitan Session Judge has given the accused seven days of ED custody.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday arrested Heera Group of Companies’ Managing Director Nowhera Shaikh and two of her associates--Molly Thomas and Biju Thomas--on charges of money laundering in the controversial Ponzi-like scheme.

The accused were produced before the Hyderabad Metropolitan Session Judge, who ordered seven days of ED custody from Wednesday. 

The ED has initiated an investigation under Prevention of Money Laundering Act after the Telangana police registered several cases against the firm. The Telangana police had earlier arrested Nowhera in October 2018 for duping several investors.

According to Hyderabad police, Nowhera Shaikh's Heera Group is accused of fraudulently collecting investments from lakhs of people by luring them with very high returns of 36% in gold trading and other businesses. 

Heera Group of Companies collected more than Rs 3,000 crore from 1,72,114 people across the country on the pretext of investment, as per ED. 

“Deposits were also collected from people in Hyderabad, some other parts of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The group has also mobilised big investments from NRIs in UAE, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries,” the agency said.

The agency said that Shaikh and others have diverted the collected money to their personal bank accounts through their company bank accounts and benamis, for 

wrongful gain and amassed huge movable and immovable properties. 

ED said that Shaikh had floated 24 entities under Heera Group, which had 182 accounts in different banks in the country. The firm has also opened 10 bank accounts in various foreign countries, including UAE and Saudi Arabia.

Before being arrested, Shaikh, who is also the founder of All India Mahila Empowerment Party, had contested in the 2018 Karnataka Assembly elections.