Tamil Nadu Congress chief demands probe into ‘Lottery King’ Martin’s donation to BJP

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Tamil Nadu Congress Committee chief K.S. Alagiri on Friday demanded an impartial probe into the issue of ‘Lottery King’ Santiago Martin funding BJP ahead of the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls this year. Congress contested the elections in alliance with long-time ally DMK. The DMK-led coalition formed the government in the state unseating AIDMK after a decade-long rule.

Mr. Alagiri said Martin, who had a number of cases against him including money laundering allegations, had provided donations to the tune of ₹100 crores to the BJP. It may be noted that the All India Federation of Lottery Trade & Allied Industries (AIFLTAI), an umbrella organization of lottery distributors, stockists, agents, etc., where Martin exerts significant influence has recently written to the GST Group of Ministers and Home Minister Amit Shah for regulation and higher taxation of online gaming.

For the past few years, the BJP has been receiving large sums of donations to fund its election campaigns. If Martin had given the BJP ₹100 crore, what sort of help is the BJP going to give him? What assurance has the BJP given him? Will the Income Tax cases against him continue to be investigated? What will happen to the cases against him across the country,” Mr. Alagiri was quoted as saying by The Hindu.

Days before the 2021 assembly elections, Martin’s Future Gaming has donated INR 100 crores to the Prudent Electoral Trust which donated INR 209 crores to BJP out of a total corpus of INR 245 crores. Congress got INR 2 crore from Prudent at the same time. Martin is also said to be backing AITMC for expansion beyond West Bengal.

In April 2019, the income tax investigation wing had conducted simultaneous raids at 70 locations of Martin on information that he had unaccounted money. Alagiri said that the case of Martin’s donation to the BJP has exposed what sort of a transparent regime the BJP was running.

Martin was a landless labourer in Myanmar who returned to Tamil Nadu in 1988 to commence his lottery business. He was jailed during the Jayalalitha government under several charges. He was also close to the CPI-M government of Kerala and had donated to the party. Martin built his business empire distributing lottery tickets, initially in Tamil Nadu and then expanding Karnataka and Kerala. But in 2003, Martin had to take his business outside Tamil Nadu, as the Jayalalithaa government banned the sale of all lotteries, including online, within the territory of the state.