Paytm Controversy: Sonia Dhawan Just A Pawn In Bigger Plan, Claims Paytm Founder Who Was Allegedly Blackmailed
On October 22, vice-president and corporate communications/PR at Paytm, Sonia Dhawan along with her husband Rupak Jain, who is a property dealer and Devendra Kumar, an employee with Paytm’s administration department was arrested by the police. The three were arrested on the charges of blackmailing the Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma. The one person who allegedly made the extortion call, Rohit is absconding said the police. Sharma has now said that Dhawan is, in fact, just a pawn in a bigger sinister conspiracy of someone else.
According to The Indian Express, Sonia has been working with Paytm for the last eight years in their Noida office near Delhi. According to the regulatory filing by One97 Communications Ltd — the parent company of Paytm — till November 2017, Sonia held 1,400 shares in the company.
The police said that she along with three other people had planned to blackmail the Paytm owner. Reportedly, she stole the company’s data and other personal information from her boss to extort Rs 20 crore from him.
Planning and plotting
The police investigation so far has revealed that she allegedly planned the crime two months ago, after her request to finance a flat worth Rs 4 crore was denied by her boss, as reported by The Indian Express.
While speaking to The Indian Express, SHO Manoj Pant said, “It appears she had inside details on how the company grew over the years. She had obtained it over a year ago with Devendra’s help. It seems she also wanted to start her own company using the information.”
The extortion call
According to The Indian Express sources, initially, a payment of Rs 67 lakh and Rs 2 lakh was made to the accused to maintain silence. Paytm owner Vijay’s brother- Ajay confirmed the payment with the fourth person, who had made the extortion call. However, Ajay, who later filed the FIR, said that in just 48 hours the caller raised the demand for extortion money and made it to Rs 20 crores. The caller also threatened him to leak all the personal information and company data if not complied with his demands, said the police.
While talking to the Money Control Ajay said, that it all started on September 20 when his brother Vijay was in Japan. He said at around 11 am, Vijay received a call from a Thailand-based number.
Ajay further said the caller claimed that he has his brother’s personal data and demanded a sum of Rs 20 Crore for not leaking it. However, his brother was busy at that time and which is why he asked the caller to call him (Vijay).
Eventually, the caller then allegedly made the extortion call to Ajay and had threatened to leak “personal data that included photos and personal financial details, if he didn’t pay up the money through Hawala (an alternative method that exists outside of traditional banking systems.),” as reported by the Money Control.
Officer Manoj pant told The Indian Express, “Ajay has submitted screenshots of their WhatsApp chats and recordings of calls. Police are sending it to the forensic science lab, after taking Devendra’s voice sample.”
The confession to the crime
Sonia and her husband have denied all allegations against them. While talking to the publication she said that she is “blank right now”. She says that the police has arrested them without prior notice. However, she wants answers from Vijay Shekhar. Meanwhile, another accused in the case, Devendra, who had joined the company seven years ago has admitted to his crime.
While talking to The Indian Express, inside the court he said, “Yes, I did copy data for them. They asked me. I do not know the nature of the data, but she (Sonia) was the one who roped me into the controversy.” The three accused were sent to 14-days judicial custody by the District Court.
The fourth accused, Rohit who made the call is on the run, said the police. The police also said that Rohit Chomal was Devendra’s friend and was hired by the trio after they allegedly assured him of giving 20% of the extortion money. The police further said that Vijay and Ajay’s number was provided to Rohit by Devendra. The accused is a Kolkata resident and in the last one month Devendra has visited Kolkata several times, said SSP.
The twist in the tale
With the new developments coming in the case there is a slight twist in the case. After Sonia got arrested on Monday her lawyer has claimed that she has also received an extortion call, reported Money Control.
The lawyer said that Sonia received a call from an unknown number who threatened to kill her if she fails to pay the ransom. He further said that following the complaint Sonia and her husband had filed a complaint on September 22 in Noida police station.
According to India Today, The lawyer further claimed that the promoters of Paytm were also pressurising her to sell her stake in the company. In the latest twist of events, the Dhawan’s lawyer has now claimed that she is being framed because of “rivalry inside the company”. He says that her colleagues were jealous of her rise to ranks.
While speaking to India Today, SSP, Noida, Ajay Pal Sharma said, that they had registered a case based on the complaint of Sonia. He also said, “Vijay Shekhar got the first call from the extortionist on September 20. Sonia registered the complaint on September 22. Vijay Shekhar received calls from Kolkata showing the caller from Thailand, while Sonia’s caller has been traced from Gautam Buddha Nagar. We are investigating both the cases. Will have to wait and see if there is a link.”
The three accused have been booked under charges of theft, extortion, cheating, criminal breach of trust, conspiracy and also under Information Technology Ac, said the police, reports NDTV. Sonia’s mother claimed that her daughter is innocent and the conflict between Vijay and Sonia is both personal and professional.
In the past, 38-year-old Paytm founder, Vijay has been in news for many reasons sometimes for making explicit comments and also for Cobrapost news stings in which his brother and the Vice-President. He had then told the Cobrapost reported that Paytm had received a call from PMO demanding user data to identify stone pelters.
Earlier the Forbes had listed him as the youngers billionaire. According to the Livemint, In 2011, Sharma founded fast-rising mobile wallet Paytm. He is also the founder of Paytm Mall, an e-commerce business and Paytm Payments Bank. Sharma owns 16% of Paytm and which is now valued at $9.4 billion. “One of the biggest beneficiaries of India’s demonetisation Paytm has notched up 250 million registered users and 7 million transactions daily,” Forbes said.
Vijay is from Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh and has done his schooling from a Hindi medium school. There has been a lot of speculation on how the company in just some time has reached new heights. Amid all that allegations the company has been growing in multiple directions, reports Money Control.