Two Paytm employees, including a vice-president who earlier served as secretary of the company’s founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, were among three people arrested by Noida police on Monday for allegedly trying to extort Rs 10 crore from him by threatening to leak his stolen personal data and confidential information about the company.
According to officers, Vijay’s elder brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma had already paid the accused Rs 69 lakh through two transactions (Rs 67 lakh and Rs 2 lakh), after he first received a call on September 20. A fourth accused, who is believed to have made the calls, is on the run, police said.
The three arrested accused were identified as Sonia Dhawan, who started as Vijay’s secretary and is currently vice-president, corporate communications/PR; her husband Rupak Jain; and Devendra Kumar, an employee with Paytm’s administration department.
“A case was filed against them on Monday morning by Ajay, alleging personal data theft and extortion. Another accused is still at large and a hunt is on to nab him. We are trying to ascertain the nature of data leaked,” SSP (Gautam Budh Nagar) Ajay Pal Sharma said. According to the FIR, Ajay’s complaint was filed at 11.52 am. While a probe is on to ascertain the nature of the information the accused possessed, an officer said it comprised the inner workings of the company as well as personal information about its founder.
According to police, Ajay named four accused in his complaint. The absconding accused, Kolkata resident Rohit Chomal, allegedly made the extortion calls from his phone, police said. “Rohit made the first call to Ajay on September 20, and then a WhatsApp call to his brother Vijay. He informed them that he has their personal data and secret information, and demanded Rs 10 crore. He asked them to transfer the money to his bank account, and threatened to put the information in public domain if they did not comply,” an officer said.
Sources told The Indian Express that payments of Rs 67 lakh and Rs 2 lakh were made to the accused on October 10 and October 15 respectively. According to police, Ajay later called Rohit over WhatsApp to confirm the payment. However, within 48 hours, the caller insisted on Rs 10 crore and threatened that his associates were ready to leak the data and information. An officer said, “Ajay convinced Rohit to disclose the names of his associates in exchange for the entire amount. It was then that Rohit allegedly disclosed the three names.”
The complainant alleged the accused illegally accessed the data from his brother’s computer and mobile phone. The FIR states: “With the intent to damage his (Vijay’s) image, they had stolen the data and Kumar had given it to Rohit, asking him to make the extortion call. An FIR was registered at Sector 20 police station under IPC sections 381 (theft), 384 (extortion), 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear of death), 420 (cheating), 408 (breach of trust) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy). Charges under the Information Technology Act were also pressed against the accused.”
An officer said the complainant also submitted screenshots of their WhatsApp chat with the accused as well as recordings of phone calls. “After registering an FIR, police arrested the three accused late Monday afternoon. Local police are in touch with their counterparts in Kolkata to track down Chomal, who allegedly made the extortion call to Ajay,” the SSP said.
According to her LinkedIn profile, Sonia joined the company in January 2010. As per a regulatory filing by One 97 Communications Ltd — the parent company of Paytm — she held 1,400 shares in the company as of November 2017.
In a statement, Paytm said: “The employee (Sonia) along with two other accomplices attempted to extort money from Vijay Shekhar Sharma on the pretext of leaking his personal data. We are standing by our colleagues till the police enquiry reaches its meaningful conclusion.”