Three people arrested over alleged bid to blackmail Paytm founder

Vastavam web: An Indian court on Tuesday remanded three people, including the spokeswoman of the country’s biggest digital payments company Paytm, to a week’s custody over an alleged bid to blackmail its founder and extort $2.7 million by threatening to leak stolen personal data. The incident threatens to embarrass the company, synonymous with taking digital payments mainstream in India after the government’s controversial currency note ban of late 2016, as well as its billionaire founder.

“Paytm would like to reiterate that all our consumer data is protected with the highest and most impenetrable levels of security,” it told Reuters in a statement, declining further comment until the results of the police investigation are known. “Police are investigating the nature of the stolen data and the modus operandi of the accused people,” police official Ajay Pal Sharma said on social network Twitter. A police spokesman said a court in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh remanded the three accused to a week’s custody. “They will be in jail until then,” the spokesman said.

Sharma did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. Other top company officials declined to comment. The complaint said Sharma’s brother and son received two Whatsapp calls in September from one of the accused individuals demanding 200 million rupees ($2.7 million) to stop him from making the data public.

“I told him ‘give us some sample, only then I will believe what you are saying’,” Ajay said, recalling the conversation. “Then he gave me the passwords of two Gmail accounts of my brother. Then we realised that this guy really had something.” Ajay transferred about 200,000 rupees this month to two bank accounts provided by the caller, he added. But the extortion demands did not end, forcing the family to go to the police, according to the complaint.

Paytm competes with Alphabet Inc’s Google Pay, and with 95 million monthly active users, it has been growing by 5 percent to 6 percent every month. It aims to reach 500 million users by 2022.