The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the trial proceedings against lottery tycoon Santiago Martin in an alleged money-laundering case on a technicality, PTI reported.

The trial is pending before a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act court in Kerala’s Ernakulam city.

A bench of Justices Abhay S Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan issued notice to the Enforcement Directorate and sought its response to a petition filed by Martin, according to Live Law.

Last month, data released by the Election Commission showed that Martin’s company Future Gaming and Hotel Services PR was the single-largest buyer of electoral bonds in the country. The company bought electoral bonds worth Rs 1,368 crore in 22 phases.

On March 16, the Ernakulam court had dismissed the businessman’s petition seeking that the trial in the money-laundering case be kept in abeyance. He then approached the Supreme Court.

Senior Advocate Aditya Sondhi and counsel Rohini Musa, representing Martin, contended that the trial in the money-laundering case could only begin after the trial in the predicate offence had ended.

Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Enforcement Directorate can only file a complaint about money-laundering allegations based on a case registered by another investigative agency. The original case is called a scheduled offence or a predicate offence.

In Martin’s case, the predicate offence is a case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The lottery tycoon argued that the trial in the money-laundering case should not be conducted till the trial in the Central Bureau of Investigation’s case is complete.

Martin referred to a judgement passed by the Supreme Court in the Vijay Madanlal Choudhary versus Union of India case in 2022, wherein the court had held that if a person was acquitted or discharged in the predicate offence, proceedings under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act cannot be continued against them.

The “lottery king” further said that a petition seeking his discharge from the Central Bureau of Investigation’s case was also pending. “In the event of petitioner being discharged in the predicate case, there will be no question of continuation of PMLA proceedings,” he contended.

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