KOLKATA: Investigation into a lottery scam, in which S Nagarajan — an aide of lottery baron Santiago Martin — was involved, has thrown up names of several political leaders of West Bengal.

Curious to find out how Martin and Nagarajan built a monopoly in the lottery business in West Bengal and north-eastern states, sleuths have stumbled upon startling facts about how the duo grew under political patronage in this part of the country. Investigators said that a company owned by Martin donated money to several political parties before the last Lok Sabha election.

Martin reportedly used Kolkata as his base to spread his lottery business in West Bengal and northeastern states. While the lottery business and distribution was done by several companies under his umbrella, the entire operation in the east and northeast was monitored from Kolkata. Nagarajan reportedly used his network in Kolkata to stash money abroad through hawala channels.

“But, this was done with the help of a strong political patronage across the states,” said an investigator.

Apart from income tax department, which raided Nagarajan’s offices and residences in September, Enforcement Directorate has also started a probe in the lottery scam.

Earlier last month, ministry of home affairs had ordered an inquiry by Comptroller and Auditor General after a PIL was filed at Calcutta High Court on the issue. During initial stages of the investigation, sleuths found that the money stashed in the offices of Nagarajan were supposed to be sent to Bihar before the assembly polls in that state.

While the main company did not make any political payment, a Kolkata-based company was used to make donations to political parties before the Lok Sabha election. Investigators have also come across a payment of Rs 5 lakh made by the company to a particular political party before the election.

Teasel Marketing Private Limited, which has its head office at Sahapur Colony in south Kolkata’s Taratala, was formed in 2008 after the merger of two Jharkhand-based lottery firms.

One of those two Jharkhand-based firms, was allegedly linked to Martin.

Nagarajan was the chairman of the Jharkhand-based company for two years. After the merger of the two, shares of the new company were allotted to Martin’s sons.

Central agencies probing the scam have reasons to believe that account details of Teasel Marketing holds the key to political payments by Nagarajan and Martin. “We are looking into all transactions and that might lead to crucial clues in the scam,” said an investigator. Nagarajan also reportedly sent money to UK, Myanmar and Dubai from Kolkata.

In another development, sources said that Nagarajan has been constantly changing his statements in an attempt to confuse the investigators. Earlier, he claimed that the money recovered from Taratala office belonged to someone else.

Later, he claimed that it was his own money. He even claimed that some cash which was found hidden in the Taratala office was part of his business proceeds.

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Source: TOI-Kol