Lottery mafia paid Singhvi’s hotel bills

via VR Jayaraj | Kerala - Daily Pioneer published on October 3, 2010

The company of ‘lottery king’ Santiago Martin, described as the don of South India’s lotteries cartel, had paid the hotel bills incurred by Congress’s national spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi when he stayed in Kochi last week to argue a lotteries case in the Kerala High Court, reports say.

One A Shajahan, booked into Hotel Taj Malabar of Kochi in the address of Martin-owned TV channel SS Music in Chennai, had paid the bills Singhvi had incurred during his stay at the same hotel, a Malayalam TV channel reported. Singhvi’s appearance as counsel of the lottery mafia has become a huge political embarrassment for the State Congress in the middle of the civic polls campaign.

At the same time, the lotteries directorate of Bhutan has reportedly denied Singhvi’s earlier claim that he had argued in the lotteries case not for the lottery mafia but for the Royal Government of Bhutan. Reports from Thimphu quoting the lotteries director there said his department had not engaged any lawyer to argue any case in Kerala.

However, Delhi reports on Sunday quoted Singhvi as reiterating that he had represented the Bhutan Government in the Kerala High Court. He said that his lawyer fee was paid by the Bhutan Government but feigned ignorance as to who had paid the hotel bills.

Talking to the media in Kochi last Wednesday, Singhvi had said, “I am representing in the court the Royal Government of Bhutan, a sovereign country.” He had repeated the same statement a day later saying, “Why do you want me to repeat this? I am engaged by the Government of Bhutan.”

He later changed his line of argument before the media saying he was in Kochi to defend the Central rules against an Ordinance promulgated by the Kerala Government to control the illegal lottery operators. The irony is that the main architect of the Ordinance, which Singhvi termed as un-Constitutional, was the Congress of Kerala.

Despite strong protests from State Congress leaders and black-flag demonstrations by the Youth Congress, Singhvi had appeared in the High Court to argue against the Ordinance promulgated to control illegal lotteries operators, who according to the Congress, were plundering an annual average of Rs 16,000 crore of poor man’s money from the State.

Singhvi’s appearance in the court for the lottery mafia caused the accusations against the CPI(M) that they were the protectors of the illegal operators to boomerang on the State Congress. The CPI(M) was quick to cash in on the situation saying Singhvi had appeared for the lottery mafia on instructions from top AICC leadership which, along with the UPA Government, was its protector.

In the context of the new revelations, State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala and party MLA VD Satheesan, who had brought up the lotteries scam as a campaign issue against the CPI(M), said they would ask the high command to take stringent action against Singhvi.

Chennithala also reiterated his earlier accusation that Singhvi was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by State Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, a CPI(M) central committee member, and the lottery mafia. He alleged that they had searched out Singhvi to argue the case for lottery mafia with political intentions.

“A very serious charge has been leveled against Kerala’s Finance Minister,” Isaac pointed out adding, “It is time for Singhvi to reveal who had engaged him in this case.” Isaac said there was no surprise that the lottery mafia had paid Singhvi’s bills. P Chidambaram and his wife Nalini had earlier appeared as counsels for them, he added.

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