A file photo of Santiago Martin.
A file photo of Santiago Martin.

I-T raids suggest luck running out for ‘lottery king’ Santiago Martin

  • Taxmen have seized 595 crore of unaccounted income from Martin’s properties across Tamil Nadu
  • The raids were conducted to find unregulated tickets, say I-T officials

BENGALURU: The recent tax raids on ‘lottery king’ Santiago Martin seem to suggest that luck is running out for the Coimbatore-based businessman.

Taxmen said they have seized 595 crore of unaccounted income in currency, payment receipts, gold and diamonds from his properties across Tamil Nadu on Saturday. This follows a 1 May raid on Martin’s press in Hyderabad, which printed almost 80% of his tickets. The raids were to find unregulated tickets, the officers said.

Between these two raids, officials made smaller raids and picked up people close to Martin for questioning. A 45-year-old accountant working for Martin was also found dead on Friday, and his family has demanded a probe.

Private lottery players have been hit by the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST), with taxes sometimes touching even the highest rate of 28% in certain states. The GST Council has seen heated debates on reduction of taxes, sparking speculation of lobbying by private players. The move was fiercely resisted by states such as Kerala, where lotteries are run by the state and are highly popular.

In June 2017, with less than a fortnight to go for the roll-out of GST, Kerala finance minister Thomas Isaac threatened to walk out of the meeting and derail plans to implement India’s most important piece of indirect tax reform over a move to reduce the tax rates on lotteries, which he said will invariably help people such as Martin. After a prolonged debate, the matter was sent to a sub-committee earlier this year.

“There have been rumours that Martin has been lobbying in the GST Council to make it a uniform tax. He almost succeeded but for stiff opposition from us," Isaac said over phone.

“The assessee in the Martin group admitted unaccounted income of 595 crore was received from stockists towards manipulation of prize-winning tickets. He also admitted to offering additional unaccounted income after reconciliation of the 619 crore of unaccounted receipts and payments made for various investments," a senior tax official told The Times of India. The I-T wing spokesperson in Tamil Nadu refused to share details when contacted by Mint.