After news of Paytm’s Vice President of Communications Sonia Dhawan, one of the company's oldest employees, being arrested on charges of blackmailing Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma became public, there has been no end to conspiracy theories.
On Monday, the Noida police arrested Sonia, Rupak Jain and Devendra Kumar on charges of extortion and blackmailing. Media reports had then alleged the trio had personal information on Vijay Shekhar Sharma and was threatening to leak it if not paid Rs 20 crore.
Latest reports say the data theft was after the founder refused to give Sonia Dhawan Rs 4 crore to buy a flat. Police said Sonia and her husband Rupak Jain lived in a rented flat in Noida and wanted to buy a large house but could not afford to buy the house after Rupak's real estate business suffered a setback.
Sonia is reported to have allegedly resorted to extortion with the help of Devendra Kumar, another Paytm employee, who copied data from Vijay's laptop and handed it over to Rohit Chomal, who then made the calls demanding money, media reports said.
News reports, quoting police sources, say Vijay got the first call from Rohit on September 20, allegedly demanding Rs 30 crore. He later scaled amount down to Rs 10 crore. While Devendra Kumar has confessed to his role, both Sonia and Rupak have claimed innocence.
The couple's lawyer Prashant Tripathi claimed there have been discrepancies about the kind of data allegedly stolen.
"There is definitely an element of conspiracy. The promoters were pressurising her to sell her stake. With the kind of accusations which were made initially, there is a lot of contradiction. There was also a statement in the press that the person who called up from Kolkata disclosed her (Sonia Dhawan's) name without even receiving a substantial part the ransom. So, you can definitely make out that there is more to it than meets the eye," said Prashant Tripathi.
He also said Sonia and her husband Rupak had received an extortion call on September 22 two days after the Paytm founder received a similar call. The caller demanded Rs 5 crore, he claimed.
Distraught family members say Sonia has been falsely implicated. Her cousin told Moneycontrol that this was an attempt to malign her image. "She was promoted to the position of Vice-President (corporate communications) of Paytm just a month ago. She has been associated with this company for almost 10 years. Why would she want to do something like this?" he said.
The fourth accused, Rohit Chomal, is a resident of Kolkata and had allegedly made the extortion call to Vijay's brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma.
The court has rejected bail for the three accused, and they have been sent to judicial custody.
According to the police, a case has been registered under IPC sections 381 (theft by clerk or servant or property in possession of the master), 384 (punishment for extortion), 386 (extortion by putting a person in fear), 420 (cheating), 408 (criminal breach of trust by clerk or servant), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and sections of the IT Act, 2008.