While the police claim that Sonia Dhawan did this for easy money, Sonia’s lawyer claims that there is a conspiracy against her and that she is being framed.

Blackmailing and conspiracy theories All you need to know about Paytm extortion case
Atom Crime Wednesday, October 24, 2018 - 15:05

Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s secretary Sonia Dhawan and two others were arrested for allegedly trying to extort Rs 20 crore from Vijay by threatening to leak confidential data. Sonia Dhawan, her husband Rupak Jain and Devendra Kumar, an employee at the company's administration department have been arrested, and a court sent all the three accused to jail for 14 days. The fourth accused is on the run.

While the police claim that Sonia did this for easy money, Sonia’s lawyer Prashant Tripathi says she is being framed. Here’s all you need to know about the Paytm extortion case.

What allegedly happened

Vijay reportedly received the first call on September 20 from a Thailand-based number demanding a sum of Rs 30 crore. This was later brought down to Rs 10 crore. Ajay Shekhar Sharma, Vijay’s brother told Moneycontrol the caller ‘blurted out’ the names of Sonia, her husband and Devendra on being pressurised for details.

According to Ajay Pal Sharma, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) of Noida, they were first informed of the extortion five days ago informally by Vijay. On Monday (October 22), a formal written complaint was filed and an FIR registered.

The SSP told TNM that Sonia, being the Paytm founder’s personal secretary, had complete access to all of his data. She stole some personal information and passed it on to Devendra, who then got in touch with someone he knew in Kolkata to make the extortion calls.

According to an Economic Times report, Vijay first transferred Rs 67 on October 10 to check bank account details of the account number given and then transferred Rs 2 lakh on October 15 while alerting the police.

Devendra has confessed to the crime, the police say, while Sonia and her husband are refuting allegations. Sonia allegedly has complete access to all of Vijay’s personal data including passwords, financial details, etc.

Who is Sonia Dhawan?

Sonia joined Paytm in January 2010, as per her LinkedIn profile. Sonia joined as Vijay’s personal secretary but went on to become the corporate communication head at the company. She has been with the company from the time it was a small startup and has witnessed the growth of the company over the years, through every milestone. Her current designation at the company is Vice President - Corporate Communications / Public Relations.

Reports suggest that regulatory filings by One97 Communications, the parent company of Paytm show that Sonia held 1,400 shares in the company as of November 2017, which was reportedly worth Rs 1.79 crore. Sonia drew an annual salary of Rs 70 lakh.

What data was stolen?

The police have recovered a pen drive, a hard disk and four mobile phones from Devendra’s house. According to a Hindustan Times report, the total data recovered is more than 128 GB and over 1000 pages.

This reportedly included passwords, encrypted emails, PIN of Paytm accounts and cash cards used by Vijay, the company’s business model, new plans and schemes as well as financial dealings of the company.

According to a MoneyControl report, Ajay has said that some photos and personal financial details were stolen.

Motive for the crime

While there isn’t much clarity on why Sonia allegedly masterminded the extortion, the SSP says that Sonia had mentioned to Vijay that she wanted to buy a property in NCR region and that could be why she needed the money.

The police say that Sonia’s husband, who was in the real estate industry, suffered some financial difficulties, which became a roadblock to their plan of buying a house.

The other side of the story

While the police maintain that Sonia, along with three others committed the crime, Sonia’s lawyer Prashant Tripathi told TNM that it is very evident that there is a conspiracy against his client (Sonia).

“This conspiracy has been done with an intent. which could be professional in terms of rivalry or could also be some other reason between two working colleagues. Problem here is that the outcome so far hasn’t been in our favour. But I can tell you that this needs a deeper level of investigation than what has been done,” he said.

Prashant also says that Paytm promoters were planning a share buyback and there was resistance from Sonia.

And speaking of a personal angle to the story, Prashant says that while nothing has been communicated to him, it is quite obvious through the interactions he has had so far that there is also a personal tiff.

“Someone who’s been working from ground level together and associated for 10 years, you definitely have personal rapport with that colleague. There is no doubt that there must have been a personal rapport between them. I also suspect that other people in the organisation might not have been happy with her growth, given she was promoted to Vice President just a month ago,” he added.

Prashant further said that Sonia and her husband too received an extortion call of Rs 5 crore, saying that they and their child would be harmed if they didn’t pay up.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Sonia said that there is more to it than meets the eye. She also said that they were taken without prior notice and that she wants Vijay Shekhar to answer her. The same IE report also quotes Sonia’s mother Rama Dhawan as saying that a personal and professional conflict has arisen between Sonia and Vijay over the past two months.



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