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'Lottery King', ED Target: Who is Highest Electoral Bonds Donor Santiago Martin?

With Rs 1,368 crore, Santiago Martin's firm donated the highest to political parties using electoral bonds.

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'Lottery King', business tycoon, a target of central agencies – Santiago Martin's Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Ltd emerged to be the top donor to political parties via electoral bonds in the data released by the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Thursday, 14 March.

With Rs 1,368 crore, Martin's firm donated the most to political parties using electoral bonds between 2019 and 2024, while also facing a probe by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department for allegedly getting illegal monetary gains by violating provisions of the Lottery Act.

However, according to the two sets of data released by the ECI, there is no way to establish who donated to which party.

What is Future Gaming? Who is Martin Santiago? Why is he constantly under ED scanner?

Here's all we know:

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Who is Martin Santiago?

Founded in December 1991, Future Gaming And Hotel Services Private Limited was registered in Coimbatore by Santiago Martin.

According to Santiago's website, he got into trading at the age of 13, and over the years, developed a network of lottery trading across the country. His business is spread across India, largely in the south. Over the years, he also expanded his businesses to Sikkim, West Bengal, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Myanmar.

In addition to lottery, Santiago has businesses in the sectors of real estate, construction, alternative energy, visual media entertainment, textiles, hospitality, healthcare, education, software and technology, property development, agro, online gaming, casinos, and building materials.

His website states: "He has been highlighted by numerous news paper articles, business magazines and reports including Business World and the Economic Times, as the highest personal taxpayer in India having paid up to Rs 1 billion per year in tax alone."

"On his silver jubilee wedding anniversary, Mr Santiago Martin and his family received the personal apostolic blessing of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI," his website claimed.

What Are the Probes Against Martin?

Future Gaming and Martin are currently being probed by several central agencies including the Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department. Martin has also had CBI cases against him reportedly since 2007.

By 2015, Martin was accused in lottery scams that spanned Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and Maharashtra, The News Minute reported.

In early 2000s, he was considered to be close to the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK). He also reportedly produced a film based on a script by former Tamil Nadu CM Karunanidhi in 2011. He was arrested in Tamil Nadu in August 2011 over an alleged land grab case when J Jayalalithaa was the chief minister.

In 2019, the ED launched a money laundering probe against Martin alleging that the company and its sub-distributors had "criminally conspired" to illegally retain unsold lottery tickets in Sikkim and claim top prizes on unsold tickets to gain money to the tune of Rs 910 crore.

As a part of the probe, assets worth Rs 409.92 crore were attached in April 2022, Rs 173 crore worth assets were attached in July 2022, and Rs 457 crore worth assets were attached in May 2023.

In October 2023, the Income Tax raided Martin's properties in Coimbatore in a parallel probe. Raids on Martin and his son-in-law Aadhav Arjun's properties were also conducted in April 2023 and September 2022.

On 9 March 2024, the ED raided properties of Aadhav Arjun at 10 locations in a case of alleged sand mining in Tamil Nadu, ETV Bharat reported. Interestingly, in February 2024, Arjun was appointed the general secretary of the Dalit political outfit Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).

(With inputs from India Today, The News Minute, The Hindu, Economic Times, and ETV Bharat).

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