Sonia Dhawan, the Paytm executive who was arrested this week along with her husband for allegedly trying to extort from the company’s founder crores of rupees, was described as someone who was a workaholic devoted to her employers.
Three persons, including Sonia Dhawan and her husband, were arrested for allegedly trying to extort crores of rupees from the Paytm’s founder.
According to family members, Dhawan had a meteoric rise in Paytm and was its most prominent face apart from founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma. This, they said, made it difficult to explain why she would want to extort money from a company to “which she has given her 100%”.
“After Sharma, my daughter was the face of Paytm. Be it the launch of a new firm or scheme or receiving awards on behalf of Paytm, she was the chosen one and deserved every bit of it,” said Dhawan’s mother Rama who lives with her daughter, son-inlaw and grandson in Noida’s Sector 120.
Dhawan , her husband and another Paytm employee were arrested on Monday for allegedly blackmailing and making extortion bid to the e-wallet company’s founder Sharma and have been sent to judicial custody for two weeks. The charges against the three include theft of sensitive personal and corporate data.
At the time of her arrest, Dhawan was a vice president and headed the company’s corporate communications division.
Dhawan’s sister Rupali said the family suspects the role of a professional rival who may have framed her. “For the past few weeks, she would tell me how a colleague was conspiring to delay her promotion. She would have heated exchanges with him,” she said, adding that her sibling was also “resisting pressure to sell her stakes in the firm”.
According to Ajay Pal Sharma, senior superintendent of police (Gautam Budh Nagar), the evidence against Sonia so far is the confessional statement of arrested alleged co-conspirator Devendra Kumar, who worked in the administration department of Paytm. “Also, Sonia was the only employee who had access to Sharma’s personal details,” said the SSP.
The officer said Sharma’s personal account and card details were the data being used to blackmail him. “They did not have the company’s details or the customers’ data. They were probably trying to extort money by scaring Sharma about having more important data than they actually had,” said the SSP.
Kapil Jain, the brother of Dhawan’s husband Rupak, said that even at the time of arrest, she seemed certain that it was mix-up and that the Paytm founder would clear things up. “She requested me to call Sharma and seek his help. She was confident he would come to her rescue,” said Jain, recounting a conversation they had at the Sector 20 police station hours after she was detained.
According to other members in the family, Dhawan’s position in the company reflected the trust that she enjoyed from the founder and was a recognition of the efforts she put in. “If she visited a shop and wouldn’t find a Paytm gateway system, she would immediately call the company and get it arranged. Paytm was her family, not us,” said Rupali.
Sonia began working as a personal secretary to Sharma in 2007, three years before he founded Paytm. She joined him with an experience of three years and after obtaining a degree in human resource management. She went on to get an MBA from a Noida college in 2014.
“Sonia began working at a monthly salary of around Rs 15,000. Today, she was drawing over ₹6 lakh,” said Rupali.
Dhawan and her husband Rupak married in 2007 and were making do comfortably. “She was someone who had big aspirations, but lived a simple life and paid ₹20,000 as house rent. She had stocks worth Rs 10 crore. If she actually wanted to extort from Sharma, she would have demanded Rs 200 crore, not Rs 20 crore,” said Rupali’s husband, Puneet P.