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India’s ‘Lottery King’ emerges as nation’s top political donor amidst allegations of fraud and money laundering

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Amidst accusations of fraud and money laundering by authorities, Santiago Martin, often dubbed India’s “lottery king,” has surfaced alongside his company as the foremost political donor in the nation.

The revelation comes as a consequence of an opaque funding mechanism that has recently been subjected to partial scrutiny. According to data disclosed on Thursday by the election commission under directives from India’s Supreme Court, Martin’s Future Gaming and Hotel Services has allocated a staggering INR13.68 billion ($165 million) between 2019 and 2024. This sum, surpassing contributions from any other entity by 40 percent, was facilitated through a now-defunct funding arrangement that permitted anonymous and unrestricted donations to political parties.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party emerges as the primary beneficiary of these contributions, the data falls short of specifying the recipient parties for individual donors. Although the judiciary has deemed the electoral bonds system unconstitutional, there exists no insinuation of impropriety surrounding these donations.

The unveiling of data pertaining to the discontinued funding scheme casts a spotlight on the controversial trajectory of 59 year old Santiago Martin, whose ascent from vending lottery tickets in his youth culminated in the establishment of a sprawling empire spanning lotteries to real estate.

Described as a flamboyant and charismatic personality with a broad spectrum of political acquaintances, Martin is reputed to have lavished politicians with extravagant gifts as his business empire flourished, according to local media reports.

Over the years, Martin has been subjected to scrutiny by tax authorities, law enforcement agencies, and investigative bodies, resulting in raids on his business premises and confiscation of assets in connection with various legal proceedings. Notably, his appeals against property seizures by India’s Enforcement Directorate, a financial crime agency, were dismissed last year.

In September, the Directorate lodged a prosecution complaint against Future Gaming and 15 other companies affiliated with Martin under anti-money laundering legislation. Allegations include defrauding state governments issuing lotteries, illegal retention and claiming of prizes on unsold tickets, and data manipulation in violation of lottery laws.

While Martin and his enterprise steadfastly refute any wrongdoing, his conglomerate, Martin Group, reiterated adherence to legal norms, highlighting Martin’s status as India’s highest taxpayer in the fiscal year ending March 2003.

Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel
Frank Schuengel is an online gambling industry veteran with over twenty years of experience in Europe and Asia. Equally at home in the Isle of Man and the Philippines, he started his career as a sports trader before setting up and running whole operations, and more recently focusing on the regulatory and licensing side of things in the worlds of fiat and crypto eGaming. When he is not writing about gambling topics, he can be found cycling around Manila and advocating sustainable transport solutions for a Philippines based mobility magazine.

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