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Largest buyer of electoral bonds is Santiago Martin of Future Gaming: Here are his links to CPIM, DMK, Congress and TMC

Future Gaming and Hotel Services, owned by Santiago Martin, has made political donations to the tune of ₹1,368 crore between 12th April 2019 and 24th January 2024.

On Thursday (14th March), the Election Commission published detailed information about the companies that purchased electoral bonds to make donations to political parties. The most significant buyer on the list was Future Gaming and Hotel Services, owned by scam-tainted Santiago Martin.

It has come to light that the entity had made political donations to the tune of ₹1,368 crore between 12th April 2019 and 24th January 2024.

Also known as the ‘lottery king’, Santiago Martin has close ties with several political parties including the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kerala, Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal and the Congress party.

Ties with CPIM

In 2007, Santiago Martin donated ₹2 crores to the Communist party mouthpiece Deshabhimani through four electoral bonds of ₹50 lakhs each. When the matter became public, the party came under fire from all political corners.

In a bid to save its face, the CPIM led by Prakash Karat decided to ‘return’ the money after having accepted it in the first place.

In 2016, senior advocate MK Damodaran, who is close to Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan, represented Santiago Martin in a case filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

MK Damodaran, who became the legal advisor to the Kerala CM, also appeared for the scam-tainted businessman in March 2018 in connection to the lottery scam.

Connections with DMK

In October 2010, Advocate General of Tamil Nadu P. S. Raman represented Santiago Martin in the Kerala High Court. Following an uproar by the Kerala government, the then DMK supremo Karunanidhi intervened and Raman was forced to withdraw.

In February 2011, the owner of Future Gaming and Hotel Services spent 50 crores and helped produce the 75th film of Karunanidhi as a scriptwriter.

Reportedly, the movie titledIlaignan‘ was in a state of limbo for 3 years before the scam-tainted businessman revived it. Karunanidhi was paid ₹45 lakhs as the scriptwriter of the movie.

In return, the chief minister allows him to run his illegal lottery business without any hitch, say cinema veterans,” a report published by India Today read.

It was reported in January 2023 that Santiago Martin’s son-in-law Aadhav Arjuna was roped in by the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham as the chief election strategist of the party in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Arjuna is believed to have close ties with the son-in-law of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Sabareesan. In February this year, he joined the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) as the Deputy General Secretary. VCK is an ally of the Congress in the I.N.D.I. Alliance.

Ties with Congress and TMC

It is interesting to point out that veteran Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi had also defended scam-tainted Santiago Martin in the Kerala High Court in September 2010.

Following opposition from the Left, he was forced to withdraw from the case. At that time, the then Congress media chairman Janardan Dwivedi had stated, “The party has taken serious note of the issue, even though he (Singhvi) has declared that he has withdrawn from the case.”

In September 2021, ‘journalist’ Rohini Singh had hinted at a nexus between a ‘regional party’ and a ‘tainted lottery mafia’.

In December of the same year, she tweeted, “Forget Adani and Ambani. The man to watch out for is lottery king Santiago Martin and who all he funds. Interesting times ahead in Indian politics.”

A report by G2G News stated that Future Gaming and Hotel Services had paid ₹12000 crores in Goods and Services Tax (GST) in West Bengal between 2017 and 2021.

“Future Gaming is one of the prompt taxpayers in the country. By paying huge taxes on time, every time, its contribution towards building a stronger nation is commendable,” it quoted from the website of the entity.

The Santanio Martin-owned firm has been organising the ‘Dear Lottery’ in West Bengal for quite some time.

In November 2022, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) informed that Trinamool Congress (TMC) Minister Anubrata Mondal and his daughter had won the lottery 5 times in three years.

Santiago Martin and his ‘lottery scam’

Santiago Martin is accused of causing a loss of ₹910,29,87,566 (~ ₹910.29 crores) to the Sikkim government through the fraudulent sale of lottery tickets in the State of Kerala between April 1, 2009 and August 31, 2010.

“Martin and his associate companies and entities made unlawful gains with a corresponding loss to the government of Sikkim to the extent of ₹ 910 crore on account of inflating the prize-winning tickets claim for the period from 01.04.2009 to 31.08.2010,” the ED said in a statement in May 2023.

At that time, the central agency seized his movable properties (mutual funds and fixed deposits) worth ₹157.7 crores and documents of immovable properties to the tune of ₹299.16 crores.

In December 2021, the Enforcement Directorate attached ₹19.59 crore worth of his properties under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Two years earlier in 2019, raids were conducted by the IT Department on 70 premises of ‘Lottery Martin’ across the country.

A former daily-wage labourer in Yangon in Myanmar, Santiago Martin went on to establish a ₹7000 crore ‘lottery’ business. He has been under the radar of investigative agencies since 2011 for financial fraud and money laundering.

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