India Seizes $54m From Lottery Mogul Santiago Martin

April 5, 2022
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India’s economic crimes agency has seized 4.1bn rupees ($54m) in bank account and mutual fund holdings controlled by notorious “Lottery King” Santiago Martin. The latest salvo in a decades-long battle between law enforcement and the gaming mogul.

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India’s economic crimes agency has seized 4.1bn rupees ($54m) in bank account and mutual fund holdings controlled by notorious “Lottery King” Santiago Martin. The latest salvo in a decades-long battle between law enforcement and the gaming mogul.

The Enforcement Directorate, the finance ministry’s anti-money laundering and economic intelligence unit, said on Saturday (April 2) that it had seized “proceeds of crime” from the accounts of Future Gaming & Hotel Services and several company sub-distributors in West Bengal state.

Triggered by complaints from police in Kolkata, the agency’s money laundering probe determined that the company, which is controlled by Martin, conspired with its distributors to defraud the Sikkim and Nagaland state governments, which host the company’s paper lottery products.

The companies allegedly “retained unsold lottery tickets and claimed top prizes on such unsold tickets in the pre-GST period up to 2017”, the statement said.

In addition, “sale proceeds of lottery tickets have been illegally diverted towards gifts and incentives by modifying the prize structure of lottery schemes without any approval from the organising state governments”.

These activities netted around 4bn rupees between 2014 and 2017, the statement said.

The latest Enforcement Directorate action follows the seizing in December of Martin-owned vacant lots in Tamil Nadu state worth 196m rupees, again in retaliation for defrauding Sikkim state since 2005.

In total, the agency has now seized almost 6.9bn rupees ($91m) in cash and assets from Martin’s businesses, after almost two decades of disputes with various governments over alleged fraud and tax avoidance.

Central government investigations are continuing into Martin’s empire.

Seizures of cash and property and decades of litigation notwithstanding, Martin remains at large and is a formidable financial and political force, with powerful connections in state and national political circles.

He retains a monopoly on paper-based lottery products in northeastern India and continues to operate lotteries elsewhere in the nation. He has previously expanded operations into Nepal, Bhutan, the Middle East and Europe.

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