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Who Is Santiago Martin, The Biggest Buyer Of Electoral Bonds?

Who Is Santiago Martin, Whose Company Is The Biggest Buyer Of Electoral Bonds?

On Thursday (14 March), the Election Commission of India uploaded all the details of electoral bonds purchased through the State Bank of India (SBI) between 12 April 2019 and 24 January of this year, as
directed by the Supreme Court.

According to the details furnished, Future Gaming and Hotel Services Private Limited purchased the highest amount of electoral bonds. The firm, headed by Santiago Martin, made donations through electoral bonds worth Rs 1,368 crore, the only one to exceed the Rs 1,000-crore mark.

What is the company all about? And who is Santiago Martin – also known as the lottery king?

Santiago Martin has been under the intense scrutiny of central investigative agencies for over a decade. Referred by many as a titan in the lottery industry, Martin’s influence extends far beyond gaming, with reported interests in healthcare, education, hospitality, and gambling.

What captured the attention was Martin’s involvement in purchasing electoral bonds, totalling a whopping Rs 1,368 crore between April 2019 and January 2024. Now, it’s important to note that there is no clear link that establishes to which political parties he donated. But interestingly, as per a report, he donated six times his company’s profit to political parties in a year.

As per reports in the financial year 2020-21, the company donated Rs 150 crore through electoral bonds while it earned a profit before tax of only Rs 84.79 crore. In the next financial year, its donations
through electoral bonds to political parties skyrocketed to Rs 544 crore but earned a profit before tax of only Rs 84.46 crore. The donations were six times the profits made that year.

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While the company bought electoral bonds of over a thousand crore rupees, its paid-up capital is Rs 10.07 crore. Reportedly, Martin’s son, Charles Jose Martin, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party in 2015.

Nonetheless, this figure spotlighted Martin’s company, based in Coimbatore, as its contributions overshadow those of well-known corporates nationwide.

Martin started his journey as a labourer in Yangon, Myanmar, later returned to India, and started his business in Tamil Nadu in 1988. Slowly, he expanded his ventures in Karnataka and Kerala.

However, in 2003, Martin faced a setback when the Tamil Nadu government banned lotteries, prompting him to relocate his operations. Despite this challenge, his company boasted an impressive turnover of
Rs 20,000 crore, as indicated in its Annual Report for 2021-22. Remarkably, in 2017 alone, the company reportedly contributed Rs 6,000 crore in GST to the West Bengal government and claims to offer direct
and indirect employment opportunities to a staggering 10 lakh individuals.

Martin is one of India’s highest personal taxpayers, reportedly contributing up to Rs 1 billion annually in taxes alone; yet despite its significant presence, a search for employees of the company on
Professional networking platforms like LinkedIn have reportedly yielded zero results.

Interestingly, while an internet search reveals an office for Future Gaming and Hotel Services in Rajendra Nagar, Civil Lines, Ludhiana, a report in the Times of India revealed no trace of the company’s
office. Reports revealed that while a lottery business once operated from the premises, the owner has been absent from the area for over two decades, and there was no signboard of the firm at the provided

Recent legal actions, such as Punjab-based lottery distributor Arunjot Singh Sodhi’s allegations of a Rs 900 crore lottery scam in August 2023, further underscored Martin’s controversial presence in the industry, with accusations of favourable policies tailored to his benefit.

What Are the Probes Against Martin?

1. As per reports, in 2015, Martin faced allegations of involvement in lottery scams that spanned across several states, including Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, and
Maharashtra In 2015, ED officials seized Rs 100 crore worth of cash found in a Siliguri, West Bengal residence, reportedly intended for the Bihar elections.

2. During the early 2000s, he was known to have close ties with the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK) party. Additionally, reports suggest that in 2011, he produced a film based on a script by former Tamil
Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi. Martin encountered legal trouble in Tamil Nadu in August 2011 when he was arrested concerning an alleged land grab case during J Jayalalithaa’s tenure as chief minister.

3. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) took action in May 2023, freezing assets worth approximately Rs 457 crore under anti-money laundering laws as part of an investigation into Martin’s alleged involvement in
a case related to the fraudulent sale of Sikkim lotteries in Kerala, resulting in a purported loss of over Rs 900 crore to the Sikkim government. The ED attached assets worth Rs 409.92 crore in April 2022, followed by Rs 173 crore in July 2022 and Rs 457 crore in May 2023.

4. In a parallel probe, the Income Tax Department raided Martin’s properties in Coimbatore in October 2023. Similar raids were conducted on Martin and his son-in-law Aadhav Arjun’s properties in April 2023 and September 2022.

5. On March 9, 2024, the ED raided Aadhav Arjun’s properties at 10 locations in connection with an alleged sand mining case in Tamil Nadu, as reported by ETV Bharat.

6. In December 2021, the ED attached properties worth Rs 19.5 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, accusing Martin, his companies, and others of investing proceeds of crime generated from their lottery business in immovable properties through more than 40 companies. In 2019, the Income Tax Department raided 70 premises linked to Martin across India.

7. His lawyer stated that Martin, who faced charges related to 14 cheating and land grab cases, obtained bail from seven courts, including those in Coimbatore, Avanashi, and Kodumudi in Erode. Martin
spent nearly seven months in prison after his detention under the Goondas Act. However, the Madras High Court subsequently overturned the detention. Martin was also arrested in 2012 and detained in
Vellore prison for alleged illegal activities.


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