Scams are not unfamiliar to the public in Kerala. Frauds of various types were unearthed on a regular basis. Although many people have lost money, property, honour and lives as a result of swindlers, they continue to become victims. Nonetheless, Keralites remained unaware of the deception carried out by a self-styled antique dealer Monson Mavungal, who was arrested after one of his victims approached the police.
Countless amounts were offered or tossed around by Monson to entice his targets. In order to lure or convince people, who fell into his trap, he boasted about his connections with famous people. Upon investigation, it was found that his words and mannerisms were so convincing that they lent him crores of rupees without demanding any security. Despite Monson’s words, a few remained skeptical. The frowned-upon were soon invited to his high-security residence at Kaloor, Kochi, and Monson opened to them the doors of an ‘antique’ world — a collection of ‘artefacts’ they never knew existed.
Monson’s claim that he received Rs 2,62,600 crore, the profits from sales of artifacts to Gulf royals, in his Delhi bank account was backed up by 24/7 security, as well as swanky cars lining up his front yard. Having trouble withdrawing cash, he requested that they loan him the money so that he can circumvent the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). Mavunkal flaunted his proximity to those who matter, the who’s who in different fields, and offered to make his guests a part of his ‘planned’ museum. Mavunkal got what he wanted. In this manner, he allegedly defrauded several people of Rs 10 crore between June 2007 and November 2020, and after multiple attempts failed to get their money back, the lenders approached the chief minister. Monson was taken into custody by the Crime Branch on Saturday. Investigators have now discovered evidence that Monson had close ties to several prominent individuals, including actors, politicians, and senior government officials.
Monson presented ‘antiques’ that were a mixture of reality and myth, which normally would seem to raise suspicion. Many people, including the well-educated and well-off, believed him because of his presentation and the atmosphere he created. Mavunkal’s exhibits included:
- Two of the 30 silver pieces Judas Iscariot accepted to betray Jesus Christ
- A piece of the Holy Shroud
- A stone jug which Jesus used to convert water into wine at Cana
- The staff (rod) of Moses
- Chhatrapati Shivaji’s private copy of Bhagavad Gita
- The coronation ring of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb
- A 4,500-year-old sculpture
- Social reformer Sree Narayana Guru’s walking stick
- A sculpture of Nandi (sacred bull of Lord Shiva) coated with panchaloha (five-metal alloys of sacred significance)
- The registration document of Mysore Palace
- The throne of the Maharajah of Travancore
- Spiritual guru Sathya Sai Baba’s golden footwear weighing 1.5 kilogram
- Paintings by Raja Ravi Varma and Leonardo da Vinci
- A clay lamp and prayer mat used by Prophet Muhammad
- Copies of the Quran in gold used by Mughal emperors Akbar, Shajahan & Aurangzeb
- A part of the nail of St Antony
- Hair of Mother Theresa
- St Alphonsa’s habit
- A Picasso painting done in 100 kg gold
- Emerald weighing 250 kg;
- Palm-leaf manuscript of Quranic quotes
Monson displayed some of these antiques to those who were invited to his Kaloor residence! His exhibits made the complainants trust him. As a way to send their confidence sky high, he said he had a chemical worth multiple crores used to launch rockets at their disposal. So far, the Crime Branch investigation has found that Monson’s antiques were all fake, punching holes in his claims.
Antiques without documents
Monson did not possess any documents verifying the age or ownership of his valuable collection of artefacts. He promised to repay those who had loaned him Rs 10 crore by selling some of the antiques from his collection. He still took them for a ride saying he could not go overseas due to a travel ban. As a result of believing him, the creditors sought buyers and approached Qatari and Dubai royals for help. They needed documentation to prove the age and ownership of the estate. Monson refused to provide the documents. In its place, he gave them state police chief’s orders for the protection of the valuables.
Conspiracy by police
Earlier, the Kochi Police ignored a directive from the Home Department to investigate complaints against Monson. After the local police failed to progress, the investigation was handed over to the Crime Branch. Monson sought anticipatory bail when he sensed trouble. When the court sought the police’s version, it was told that the man was not going to be arrested. Monson was arrested the following day.
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Two-crore shock for the driver.
Ajith, Monson’s driver-mechanic was shocked to learn that transactions amounting to around 2 crores had been made through his account in a private bank. Investigators found that the Nettoor resident was unaware of the transactions. Ajith said he learned about the transactions after reactivating his account, which had been dormant for the lack of a minimum balance. Although the account was opened in Ajith’s name, the ATM card and checkbooks were in Monson’s name. The mobile phone number associated with the account belonged to the accused.
Stunning audio clip
The Crime Branch sleuths have listened to the audio clip of a telephonic conversation that seems to have taken place between Monson and Anoop, one of the complainants.
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