New Delhi: The Paytm extortion case has been getting murkier with each passing day, accompanied by contradicting versions of the episode. On Wednesday, ex-Paytm corporate communications head Sonia Dhawan, who has been accused of extorting at least Rs 10 crore from Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma, said there is “more to it than meets the eye”.
The police recently issued a statement saying that 32-year-old Dhawan—who had an annual salary package over Rs 70 lakh—plotted the extortion to buy a house worth Rs 4 crore along with her husband Rupak Jain. Another Paytm employee, Devendra Kumar was also allegedly involved in the plan and helped Dhawan steal data from the Paytm CEO.
All the above-mentioned individuals have been sent to judicial custody for 14 days and police continue to look for a fourth suspect, Rohit Chomal, who made extortion calls to the Paytm CEO and his brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma from Kolkata.
Meanwhile, Dhawan’s family said they were shocked by the chain of developments. Sonia’s brother-in-law suggests he has “hard evidence” to prove that someone from the Paytm boss’ family made the ransom calls from Kolkata, according to a report on TOI. Police also added that the leaked data contained personal data to the tune of 128 GB, with several conversations records Sharma had with top officials, his passwords, and data on the company’s business model.
The police added that the stolen data was stored in a hard disk and dispatched by Devendra Kumar to Rohit Chomal in Kolkata, following which the ransom calls began.
As of now, the Noida Police is in contact with the Kolkata Police to hunt down Chomal, who has all the secrets stored with him. The police also said that Dhawan and the others were stealing data from Sharma for the past couple of years.
The police went on to say that the main motive of the extortion was due to weakness in Rupak Jain’s property business. Chomal, too, was going through a rough phase and got involved in the scheme. Chomal had allegedly asked Paytm boss to pay Rs 30 crore; he subsequently reduced it to Rs 20 crore and finally Rs 10 crore.
Police claim they have “incriminating” evidence against proving the involvement of Devendra and Chomal in form of WhatsApp conversations. Apart for launching a search operation to nab Chomal, police are also trying to trace an ISD number which was used by him to make the ransom calls to Sharma and his brother.
Framed or guilty?
All the facts have been refuted by Dhawan’s lawyer, who ascertained that the allegations were a plot to frame his client. Her lawyer, Prashant Tripathi, claims that she was being pressurised to sell her existing shares, according to a report on moneycontrol.com.
Suggesting that there is an element of conspiracy in the case, Tripathi highlighted that Dhawan was recently promoted recent to the position of Vice President, Corporate Communications, Paytm and had been with the company during its rapid rise. In a nutshell, she was in a pretty stable position at her job—something that was highlighted by Dhawan’s family members.
Her mother Rama told Hindustan Times that her daughter was the “face of Paytm” after Sharma (Vijay Shekhar), adding that she was the “chosen one” and deserved the limelight. Meanwhile, he sister Rupali fees it is a case of political rivalry who framed her. Rupali also confirmed the fact that her sibling was being pressurised to sell her shares in the company.
The statements from her family also indicate that Dhawan was a dedicated employee and always gave her 100 per cent to the company.
Dhawan has been working in Paytm for almost 10 years, starting off as a secretary to Sharma in 2007, with a monthly salary of Rs 15,000. However, her monthly salary increased to over Rs 6 lakh a month, adding up to Rs 72 lakh in a year. In addition, Dhawan is believed to hold shares worth crores in the company.
Considering the financial assets and earnings of Dhawan, the extortion amount of just Rs four crore seems paltry said Rupali’s husband. As of now, the investigation continues, and no angle can be ruled out before further confirmation.