A Kerala man has been arrested for allegedly swindling people by convincing them that he was an authentic collector of ancient relics and artefacts. Among the artefacts that he claimed to possess were the rarest of rare items, including the staff of Moses, the throne of Tipu Sultan, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita used by Chhatrapati Shivaji, a ring of Aurangzeb and a fragment of a fingernail of St Antony.
On Sunday (September 26), Monson Mavunkal, a native of Cherthala, was arrested by the Crime Branch of the Kerala Police from Kochi on charges of cheating several people by convincing them that he was an authentic collector of ancient relics and artefacts. In reality, a majority of the ‘artefacts’ stored at his home in Kochi are reportedly cheap knock-offs designed by local carpenters.
Mavunkal (52), a vlogger with wide contacts in the realms of bureaucracy, cinema and politics, was taken into custody on the basis of a joint complaint sent to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The complainants — Yakoob Purayil, Anoop V Ahmed, Salim Edathil, MT Shameer, Siddique Purayil and Shanimon — alleged that Mavunkal cheated them of Rs 10 crore since June 2017.
The complaint accessed by indianexpress.com threw light on a simple modus operandi used by Mavunkal to cheat people. He used to tell people that he had Rs 2.6 lakh crore stuck in a foreign bank account due to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) norms of the Reserve Bank. He claimed that the money was paid to him by royal families in Gulf countries in exchange for the artefacts he sold to them. He would then promise people a partnership in a huge museum project he was planning to execute in Kochi and interest-free loans for a business in the Gulf once his money in the foreign bank account gets released.
The complainants said that Mavunkal, when prodded to return their money, would exercise his influence and close relationships with top police officers and politicians to fend them off.
Mavunkal has over the years invited scores of prominent people in the fields of politics, cinema, police and bureaucracy to his rented home in Kochi to show off the ‘artefacts’. In the photographs that have tumbled out hours since his arrest, he was seen sharing frames with former state police chief Lokenath Behera, ADGP Manoj Abraham, former DIG S Surendran, actor Mohanlal and Kannur MP and state Congress chief K Sudhakaran.
The 52-year-old allegedly forged bank and government documents, passed off fake antique articles as real through social media platforms and exploited prominent persons as his middlemen in financial dealings in order to swindle money, the complaint said. He also allegedly has in his possession a bunch of luxury cars parked in front of his Kochi home as evidence of his flamboyant lifestyle.
MP K Sudhakaran, at a press conference in Kannur, admitted that he knew Mavunkal and has visited his Kochi home where he was shown various artefacts. “But I’m not involved in any kind of financial dealings. No one can prove that. I have no connection with the petitioners in the case. There’s a dark force and a conspiracy behind all of this,” he said.
The Pravasi Malayali Federation, an expatriate organisation, said in a statement that it had removed Mavunkal as a trustee after his arrest in the financial fraud case.