It was a well-conceived plan to extort Rs 20 crore from digital payments major Paytm’s owner Vijay Shekhar Sharma but some loopholes led to the arrest of three employees, including Sharma’s longtime secretary Sonia Dhawan. It was a case that involved cheating, extortion, and criminal breach. It is said that they were trying to blackmail the Paytm founder and his brother on the basis of stolen confidential data and are attempting to extort Rs 20 crore for not leaking it.
Although it is not clear when the data was stolen, a media report said Sonia Dhawan had access to his laptop, mobile phone and office computer. She had planned the crime with her colleague Devender Kumar (who worked in administration department), and husband Rupak Jain, a property dealer.
Sonia was one of Sharma’s oldest employees and his close aide. She was currently the Vice President, Corporations/PR. According to a regulatory filing by One97 Communications Ltd, she held 1,400 shares in the company as of November 2017.
Sonia had allegedly passed the data to Rohit Chomal, another accused who made the extortion call to Sharma’s brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma, who is a senior vice president in the company. The police said the owners were threatened to cause the firm losses and dent its public image.
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP), Gautam Buddh Nagar, Ajay Pal Sharma said:
“The owner of Paytm had made a complaint with the police that their employees, a woman and her aides, had stolen some data from the company and were blackmailing. They were demanding Rs. 20 crore for not leaking it.”
“They are being probed about the data and their modus operandi. Police will share the facts as they are unearthed.”
As per media reports, the fourth suspect disclosed the names after he temporarily settled for Rs 2 lakh. After assurance from Sharma brothers, the accused named Sonia Dhawan, Rupak Jain and Devender Kumar. He also said that he was hired to make an extortion call. Noida police are in touch with their counterparts in Kolkata to track down Chomal.
The accused have been booked under Indian Penal Code sections 381 (theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master), 384 (extortion), 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear of death or grievous hurt), 420 (cheating), 408 (Criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant) and 120 B (party to a criminal conspiracy). The police said charges under the provisions of the Information Technology Act have also been pressed against the accused.
According to Sonia’s lawyer, she has been framed as the promoters of Paytm were pressurising her to sell her stake in the company. With the firm’s valuation touching almost $12-16 billion, her lawyer allege that the company was forcing her to go a buyback that she did not want to.
The Paytm spokesperson has said this was not user data, rather it was confidential data and information of the owner through which the accused tried to extort money.