'Antique collector' held for cheating, top police officers under scanner

'Antique collector' held for cheating, top police officers under scanner

Kochi/Thiruvananthapuram: The State Crime Branch has arrested a self-styled antique collector-cum-seller for cheating six people to the tune of Rs 10 crore by promising them partnership in a museum project.

Monson Mavunkal (52) of Mavunkal House at Vallayil in Cherthala was arrested from his house when he arrived in connection with his daughter's engagement on Saturday. Unconfirmed reports said three others, who were with him, have been detained.

Mavunkal was arrested based on complaints lodged with the Chief Minister by Kozhikode residents Yakub Purayil, Siddique Purayil, E A Salim, M T Shameer, Thrissur resident Anoop V Ahmmed and Shanimon of Manjeri.

The accused allegedly convinced the men that Rs 2,62,600 crore, the price of antiques he had sold to the royals in Gulf nations, had been credited to his bank account in Delhi. He also showed them 'bank documents', claiming he was unable to withdraw the money since the Central government had invoked the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to temporarily freeze the withdrawal facility.

Mavunkal took money from the six men between June 2017 and November 2020 to get the freeze lifted. He had introduced himself as an antique and diamond merchant for over 25 years, and also as one holding several offices, including in Pravasi Malayali Federation and World Peace Council. He had also boasted of having talks with the Prime Minister.

Antique collector held for cheating top police officers under scanner

'Antique collector' held for cheating, top police officers under scanner
Monson Mavunkal's house in Cherthala.

The man also claimed to be close to a prominent MP from south Kerala, a young IPS officer, now on deputation in Karnataka, an IAS officer who earned the title 'Bro' when he had been a district collector, and a Malayalam superstar.

Additionally, he made them believe that an industrialist, looking after the Chief Minister's financial interests, was coordinating his activities in Delhi. Investigators have now found that he did not have an account in Delhi.

Interestingly, Mavunkal had claimed of having in his possession imaginery and mythical rarities, such as two out of the 30 silver pieces Judas had received for betraying Jesus Christ, a container that stored water that Jesus turned into wine at the Marriage at Cana, a cross made of sand touched by Jesus at Golgotha, and other relics. Also a vlogger, he had been promoting his 'antique business' on YouTube also.

Mavunkal, who has been living in a rented residence at Kaloor in Kochi, had shown his 'collection' to several of his visitors. The complainants said they too had visited the Kaloor house, where even politicians acted as middlemen.

Paintings adorned the compound wall of the house guarded by private security personnel and guard dogs. The house was also under 24/7 CCTV surveillance, adding credence to his claims. Investigators said he had kept such 'antiques' at his house in Cherthala also.

Mavunkal had also claimed to be a medical doctor, who got interested in antiques after a chance meeting with Narasimha Wodeyar, a Mysore royal, during a flight journey.

He allegedly conned over-enthusiastic artefact collectors by claiming to have the relics of 28 saints, the staff of Moses, Bible written in pages of gold, the throne of Tipu Sultan.

The crime branch investigators were suspecting that these were all cheap imitations.

Meanwhile, it has been alleged that the local police had sabotaged a probe against Mavunkal earlier. The local police launched a probe only after his arrest on Saturday.

It has been reported that two police officers from Alappuzha were with Mavunkal when crime branch sleuths arrested him from his house. The Home Department has now asked the crime branch to probe all police officers who had links with the accused, and their roles.

The investigation has found that the Intelligence Bureau had earlier questioned a few police officers in connection with a probe against Mavunkal.

The State police intelligence wing, too, had probed Mavunkal based on a complaint by a Pandalam-based business group. The probe was allegedly sabotaged by higher-ups in the police force. The crime branch has now found substance in the allegation.

Mavunkal allegedly used his proximity with senior police officers to avoid repaying the money. A DIG and his family used to frequently visit Mavunkal.  

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