Monday, October 22, 2018

Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma's secretary, 2 more held for Rs 20 crore blackmail in Noida

A long-time personal secretary to Paytm  founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma was among three people arrested in Noida on Monday for allegedly trying to extort Rs 20 crore from him. The trio claimed to be in possession of data that included personal information on Sharma that the former secretary, Sonia Dhawan, is suspected to have stolen as she had access to his laptop, phone and office desktop.

Another Paytm staffer- Devender Kumar of the administration department- was also involved in the alleged extortion plot. Sonia and Devender were at their desks in the company's Noida office when a police team took them into custody. The third accused is Sonia's husband Rupak Jain, a property dealer. Police are looking for a fourth suspect, an associate of Jain's who is believed to be in Kolkata. "We are in touch with Kolkata police for help," Noida police chief Ajay Pal Sharma said.

Police said Sonia, who is in her early 30s, had been working with Sharma for the last 10 years - basically the entire period from the time Paytm was founded (in 2010) and its phenomenal growth after
Demonetisation in 2016. Devender too has been with Paytm for seven years, almost since its inception.
The arrests were made based after a complaint by Sharma, who said his brother got the first extortion call on September 20 by a person who identified himself as Rohit Chopal (Chopal is the fourth suspect, though this may not be his real name). The Paytm founder's brother Ajay Sharma is a senior vice-president in the company. The caller allegedly asked Sharma to pay up for the data he had acquired.
Speaking to TOI, Ajay Sharma said, "I received the first call on September 20, around 4pm, when the man demanded Rs 10 crore for the information. When I refused to pay, he called Vijay." Chopal repeated the same demand of Rs 10 crore to the founder before ratcheting it up to Rs 20 crore over the next few calls he made.
After several interactions, Chopal settled for Rs 2 lakh to be transferred initially. "We made the offer for Rs 2 lakh as we wanted to get more information from the man making the demands," explained Ajay. The money was transferred online. "After the transaction was made, we requested Chopal to tell us how he stole the data but he wanted more money. We convinced him that after he revealed the source of the data to us, we would transfer more money. That's when he told us that Sonia, Rupak Jain and Devender had stolen the data from the company and handed it over to him. They had hired Chopal to make the extortion call," said Ajay.
Noida police chief Ajay Pal Sharma said all three had admitted to their involvement in the extortion plot after interrogation. According to the police chief, Sonia was the mastermind behind the extortion plan. Sonia and Jain live in Prateek Laurel in Sector 120. As personal secretary, Sonia had access to the Paytm chief's laptop and mobile phone, office desktop and other financial information. It was easy for her to steal data and pass it to Chopal. "Both Vijay Sharma and his brother Ajay submitted the recording of the extortion calls and the complaint with a profile of those involved. We based our arrests on investigation after the complaint was filed," said the police chief.

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