Police arrest three over alleged attempt to blackmail founder of India’s Paytm

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Indian police have arrested three people, including the spokeswoman for Paytm, the country’s biggest digital payments company, after alleged attempts to blackmail its founder and extort 200 million rupees ($2.7 million) by threatening to leak stolen personal data.

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters for Paytm, India’s leading digital payments firm, is pictured in Noida, India, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Sankalp Phartiyal/File Photo

Police said Sonia Dhawan and her two male accomplices were arrested on Monday following a complaint by Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the founder of Paytm’s parent One97 Communication.

Paytm counts China’s Alibaba Group and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp among its investors.

“Sharma complained that a female employee and her partners stole some data and demanded 20 crore rupees from him using the data,” Ajay Pal Sharma, a senior police official, said in a video message on Twitter. One crore is worth 10 million rupees.

“Police are investigating the nature of the stolen data and the modus operandi of the accused people,” Sharma said.

Indian media said that Dhawan had been a long-time personal assistant to Sharma as well as the company’s spokeswoman.

Dhawan, who is in police custody, could not be reached for comment. Sharma did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. Another top company official declined to comment.

FILE PHOTO: Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Mridula Sharma arrive for the Time 100 Gala in the Manhattan borough of New York, New York, U.S. April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

In a statement to local TV channel NDTV, Paytm confirmed the arrests.

“The employee along with two other accomplices attempted to extort money from Vijay Shekhar Sharma on the pretext of leaking his personal data,” the statement said.

“We are standing by our colleagues till the police enquiry reaches its meaningful conclusion.”

($1 = 73.7800 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Krishna N. Das and Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Martin Howell and Michael Perry

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