Sonia Dhawan and Paytm owner, Vijay Shekhar Sharma

Paytm Extortion Case: What’s The Mystery Data That Was Stolen?

Paytm’s owner, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, and his brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma are alleging data theft and extortion in a case that gets murkier as more details come out. The Quint has been uncovering the various sides of the case, and has now got confirmation of a key piece of the puzzle – what is the nature of the data that was stolen?

The Case

An FIR was registered by Noida Police on 22 October on the complaint of data theft and extortion by the owner of PayTm, Vijay Shekhar Sharma and his brother Ajay Shekhar Sharma. It alleged that four people tried to extort Rs 10 crore from Paytm’s owner against the stolen data. The alleged blackmailers also threatened to make the data public and defame Vijay Shekhar Sharma if ransom was not paid.

The FIR named four persons as accused – Sonia Dhawan, an employee of Paytm and personal secretary of Vijay; Roopak Jain, Sonia’s husband; Devinder Kumar, Paytm employee; and Rohit Chomwal, a businessman from Kolkata.

The FIR doesn’t reveal the nature of the data stolen nor has Sharma commented on the nature the data. A lot of assumptions and speculation came out in the media that the data could be related to Paytm users’ personal details, which could be misused or sold by the alleged blackmailers.

Mystery of the Data Cracked

The Quint has finally got answers to what is in the stolen data.

Dr Ajay Pal Sharma, Senior Superintendent of Police, Gautam Budh Nagar district has confirmed to The Quint that the stolen data is related to Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s personal life.

“The investigation so far reveals that the stolen data is related to Vijay Shekhar Sharma’s personal life and has nothing to do with his business strategy or Paytm users’ data.”

A reliable source has confirmed that the personal data was allegedly stolen by Devindra Kumar, one of the accused in the case.

Noida Police has claimed that a CD was recovered from one of the accused which allegedly contains stolen data. The CD has been sent for Forensic examination.

“We cannot divulge the content of the data because it is personal and we cannot breach someone’s privacy,” said police sources.

The Key Player

The FIR accessed by The Quint reveals that Chomwal was a key player. He was directly communicating with Vijay and Ajay through WhatsApp calls and messages.

The FIR says,

“Rohit Chomwal informed (Vijay Shekhar Sharma) that Sonia Dhawan stole the data from Vijay’s computer/phone. Sonia, Roopak and Devinder made plans to blackmail Vijay on the basis of the stolen data. Later, Devinder informed Rohit Chomwal about their plans and told him to ask ransom from Vijay.”

It was he who demanded Rs 10 crore as ransom and also informed the complainants about his other accomplices.

“Nowhere in the FIR has the complainant said that Sonia Dhawan or her husband called and messaged Vijay directly or blackmailed him. It doesn’t even say that she or her husband demanded money from him. The entire complaint is based on what Chomwal told him. My clients have been framed,” said Satish Kumar, Sonia and her husband’s lawyer.

What Sonia’s Lawyer Says

Sonia’s lawyer refused to divulge the details of the data as the matter is subjudice.

“My client has shared the details of the personal data which was stolen from Vijay’s phone with me but I cannot divulge it as the matter is under investigation. I would like to add that the police has no concrete evidence against Sonia or her husband as the ransom money was not transferred to their bank accounts. Moreover, the police didn’t recover the stolen data from my clients,” said Satish Kumar, Sonia’s lawyer. 

A small part of the ransom money was transferred into Chomwal’s bank account in two tranches, Rs 67 and Rs 2 lakhs, on 10 and 15 October, respectively.

Interestingly, the key player, Chomwal, is still at large and he has not been questioned by the police even once. Meanwhile, Sonia, Roopak and Devinder were arrested and are still in jail. Sonia’s bail application will come up for hearing on 4 December.

In November 2018, Chomwal moved an application in the Allahabad High Court which gave him protection from being arrested till the investigation is completed.

The writ petition in The Quint’s possession alleges that Chomwal has been wrongly accused in the case and has been made an “escape goat” (sic) especially when the petitioner (ie: Chomwal) helped Vijay Shekhar and his brother in apprehending the three ‘culprits’.

Some Pertinent Questions

The police has not clarified what evidence they have against Sonia, Roopak and Devinder to prove their involvement in the case.

Is Chomwal so foolish that he will agree on the transfer of the ransom money to his bank account which can act as an evidence against him in the court?

The FIR reveals that the first ransom call was made by Chomwal on 20 September but the complaint was filed on 22 October. Why did the complainant wait for 32 days to file a complaint?

Why did Vijay and his brother transfer Rs 2 lakh to Chomwal’s bank account and then file a complaint? Was it to create evidence? Well, the FIR says that they already had Chomwal’s WhatsApp calls and messages as evidence.

Sonia’s lawyer said that she was regularly attending office between 20 September and 22 October, during the period when Chomwal was blackmailing Vijay. Her lawyer claimed that there would be enough evidence in the form of CCTV footage to prove her presence in the office. The question then is – why was she allowed to come to office when Vijay knew that she was one of the persons blackmailing him?