Several politicians and top police officers were reportedly left red-faced after photographs and videos showing them in the company of alleged fake antique dealer and “debt-dodging confidence trickster” Monson Mavunkal went viral on mainstream and social media on Monday.
Monson had fallen into the police dragnet on Sunday on the charge of palming off recently handcrafted cheap knock-offs as authentic relics to wealthy, uninformed and eager collectors.
The suspect’s social media account showed him in the company of an astonishing number of rich, famous and influential people, including Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee president K. Sudhakaran, MP, actors and the police top brass.
Monson had reportedly endeared himself to Mr. Sudhakaran by claiming that he was a German-trained cosmetologist. Mr. Sudhakaran admitted that he had sought out Monson’s service as a stylist. He was not a party to Monson’s financial dealings.
Sudhakaran sees plot
Mr. Sudhakaran said the Chief Minister’s Office had hatched a plot to discredit him and Monson had come in handy for the conspirators.
The police said Monson had lured investors to part with crores of rupees as an advance fee for vast interest-free loans later. The self-styled archaeologist allegedly claimed that he needed cash advance to free up the vast sums deposited in his foreign bank accounts by some rich potentates who had purchased antiques from him.
Additional Director General of Police, Manoj Abraham, had reportedly flagged the possibility of fraud after a tour of Monson’s private museum. He had also pulled up an IPS officer in 2020 for overstepping his jurisdictional bounds to save Monson from prosecution in a financial-fraud case.
Several had doubted Monson’s elaborate and persuasive tales about owning rare religious artefacts and reliquaries. However, the police lacked a specific complaint to proceed against him despite cautionary intelligence reports.
Officials said Monson often blurred the line between fact and fiction for “personal gain.” He had an uncanny knack for making people believe in things that did not exist. Monson had allegedly claimed to own the “staff of Moses,” silver pieces received by Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus Christ to Roman soldiers, Veronica’s veil and other imaginary rarities from the mythical world.
Monson moved in a cavalcade of expensive cars and surrounded himself with bodyguards wearing black glasses and dark suits.