Who Is Santiago Martin? Once A Labourer, Now The number 1 Donor Of Electoral Bonds

Who Is Santiago Martin? Once A Labourer, Now The number 1 Donor Of Electoral Bonds

Martin is thought to maintain friendly ties with various political factions.

Rahul MUpdated: Friday, March 15, 2024, 05:51 PM IST
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Santiago Martin | Facebook, Martin Group of Companies

When the Election Commission made public the information regarding the electoral bonds handed over by SBI on Thursday, it might have come as a surprise to some that a person who was once a labourer, now known as the 'Lottery King', would emerge as the largest purchaser of electoral bonds.

Santiago Martin's company Future Gaming and Hotel PVT LTD has become the largest buyer of electoral bonds, purchasing bonds worth 1,368 crore rupees. As per the details shared by SBI with the Election Commission, the second-largest buyer is Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd, which has acquired electoral bonds worth 966 crore rupees.

Journey from labourer to 'Lotery King'

Santiago's journey spans from labourer in Myanmar to a diversified business mogul, navigating family political ties, legal challenges, and expanding his empire from lotteries to ventures like medical colleges, TV channels, real estate, and hospitality.

Before entering the lottery business in India in 1988, reports suggest that Martin worked as a laborer in Myanmar. Upon returning, he established Martin Lottery Agencies Ltd in Coimbatore.

In the following years, he expanded his market presence to other southern states such as Karnataka and Kerala. Over time, he successfully acquired permissions to operate in northeastern states as well as Punjab and Maharashtra.

When CPI(M) mouthpiece returned ₹2 crore donation

Martin's involvement in a political scandal arose in 2008 when he was accused of defrauding the Sikkim government of more than ₹4500 crore. During the same year, he made a donation of ₹2 crore to the CPI(M) mouthpiece Deshabhimani. However, following public outcry, Deshabhimani returned the donation to Martin. Martin is thought to maintain friendly ties with various political factions.

Association with DMK

In Tamil Nadu, Martin's connection with the DMK is well-known. He produced a Tamil film titled Ilaignan, worth Rs 20 crore, which was scripted by none other than the then Chief Minister M Karunanidhi. This screenplay marked Karunanidhi's 75th script, adapted from Maxim Gorky’s The Mother.

Following the AIADMK's rise to power, Martin faced legal troubles, including arrest alongside DMK members under land grabbing charges and the Goondas Act. Despite his release on bail, his wife, Leema Rose, took a more active role, filing complaints and joining the Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK).

Son joined BJP in 2015

In 2015, it was reported that Martin's son, Jose Charles Martin, had affiliated himself with the Kerala BJP. Meanwhile, Martin's son-in-law, Aadhav Arjuna, currently holds the position of deputy general secretary within the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi.

In May 2023, the ED seized Rs 457 crore under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in connection with a case involving the alleged loss of over Rs 900 crore to the Sikkim government.

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