After the startling news of Paytm Founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma's close aide and one of his oldest employees, Sonia Dhawan, being arrested on the charges of blackmailing him became public, there has been no end to the conspiracy theories surrounding this development.
Sonia's lawyer has now responded to the allegations saying the promoters of Paytm were pressurising her to sell her stake in the company and she has been framed.
"There is definitely an element of conspiracy. The promoters were pressurising her to sell her stake," said Sonia's lawyer Prashant Tripathi.
He said that there is a lot of ambiguity in the case given that multiple reports earlier stated that the data in question belonged to the company but was later acknowledged as Sharma's personal data.
"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," Tripathi added.
He also said that Sonia and her husband Rupak Jain had received an extortion call of Rs 5 crore on September 22, two days after Sharma received a similar call.
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"There was an extortion call for Rs 5 crore. The caller threatened to harm the family if the demand wasn't met," revealed Tripathi.
According to data shared by PaperVc with Moneycontrol, Dhawan has employee stock option plans (ESOPs) to the tune of 0.004 percent in One97 Communications and 0.02 percent in Paytm E-commerce Pvt Ltd, the two companies held under the group.
The cumulative value of the shares as per Paytm's current valuation stood around Rs 3.2 crore.
She is expected to have more ESOPs in other group entities.
Dhawan’s family members, who were distraught after hearing the news, feel that she has been falsely implicated. A cousin of Dhawan told Moneycontrol that this was an attempt to malign her image.
"She was promoted to the position of the 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, adding that they have not been able to speak to her after her arrest.
Dhawan, her husband Roopak Jain, and another Paytm employee Devendra Kumar were allegedly involved in the blackmailing. The fourth accused, Rohit Chomal, is a resident of Kolkata and had allegedly made the extortion call to Sharma's brother Ajay Shekhar.
The court has rejected bail to the three accused who have now been sent to judicial custody.
Dhawan has been associated with the company for almost a decade. She started off as a personal assistant to Sharma and rose to become the head of public relations over the years.