Was the huge cache of Indian currency notes stacked inside the posh offices in Kolkata and Siliguri waiting to be transferred through the hawala route meant for a Mumbai underworld don based in Dubai? Officers involved in the investigation have enough reasons to suspect so.
“Initial investigations have already revealed that the cash seized in Kolkata and Siliguri was meant to be transferred to Dubai through the hawala racket. The mode of operation indicates that the group has links with Dawood Ibrahim, India’s most wanted criminal, or other Dubai-based dons active in the Mumbai underworld,” said an Intelligence Bureau officer.
Acting on a tip-off from the IB, the Income Tax department raided three companies in West Bengal (General Systems, run by S Nagarajan from Tamil Nadu; Future Plus Enterprise, run by Jitendra Mehta and Babla Bhai; and Divjyoti Distributors in Siliguri) on Thursday.
“Although IT recovered over Rs 60 crore by raiding these offices, we feel it’s a more than Rs 1,000-crore scam. The mode of operation is quite simple. They run small business, like fake lottery company, and these enterprises are a front for money laundering. Once they collect a huge amount of cash they transfer them to UAE or Saudi Arabia through the hawala route,” said the investigating officer.
“Dons such as Dawood Ibrahim control the money laundering network from Pakistan and through fraudulent lottery schemes which dupe people across India,” said another officer.
Investigators claimed that Santiago Martin (better known as “lottery king of India”) is the mastermind of these companies.
“CBI is looking for Santiago Martin for his suspected links with the Mumbai underworld. Already more than 20 major cases of running money-laundering rackets have been filed against him in Kar nataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu,” the investigating officer said.
The 50-year-old Martin spent his childhood days as an impoverished labourer in Myanmar. He returned there in mid-80s and opened Martin Lottery Agencies in 1988. Soon he became popular in Tamil Nadu as “Lottery Martin” and had allegedly managed to setup ties with the DMK.
In 2011, he produced a Rs 20-cr Tamil film called Ilaignan, based on a story written by DMK chief M Karunanidhi. Jayalalithaa came to power the same year and Martin was arrested.