Who is Monson Mavunkal? This is the question that Keralites have been asking after breathless minute-to-minute coverage by news channels on the arrest of the antique dealer and social media influencer. The Kerala Crime Branch arrested Mavunkal from his residence in Alappuzha on Sunday, September 26, after a complaint alleged that he had cheated six people of Rs 10 crore. What followed were many revelations about a man who built a name for himself as an antique dealer and had the who-is-who of Kerala visiting him.
Hailing from Cherthala in Alappuzha district, Monson moved to Kochi a few years ago and transformed his large rented house in the city into a museum for antiques. He claimed to have a collection of rare antiques, including two of the 30 coins that Judas received for betraying Jesus, a piece of clothing that Jesus had worn, a chalice that Prophet Mohammed used, the throne of Tipu Sultan and more. Though the authenticity of all these ‘antiques’ are under question, what legitimised Monson over the years was the steady flow of VIPs to his house.
Prominent among the pictures doing the rounds is that of Monson posing with former Director General of Police Loknath Behera at his museum. In one picture, Behera can be seen sitting on a throne with Assistant Director General of Police Manoj Abraham standing next to him, holding a sword. But Behera isn’t the only one. Actor Mohanlal, Congress President K Sudhakaran, current ministers Roshi Augustine and Ahammed Devarkovil, Inspector General of Police Lakshman Gugulloth and former Deputy Inspector General of Police S Surendran can be seen posing with Monson.
On his website, Monson liberally describes himself as a world peace promoter, philanthropist, educationist and motivational speaker. There are pictures of him posing like a don flanked by men, women and dogs. Many VIPs, including K Sudhakaran, now claim that they met Monson under the impression that he was a cosmetologist with eight postdoctoral honours.
The Kerala Crime Branch arrested Monson on September 26 for allegedly swindling Rs 24 crore from multiple persons in the state.
According to the complainants — six Kerala natives — Monson had introduced himself as a diamond merchant and antique business dealer. He borrowed crores of rupees from the complainants, claiming that his money, which he received from business dealings abroad, had been blocked by the “Union government’s department managing the Foreign Exchange Management Act, and that he was involved in a legal battle to retrieve it”, the complainants have said in a petition filed to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. In order to take the complainants into confidence, Monson is said to have shown them details of his account that he shares with VJ Patel, his partner in the company, in the HSBC bank.
However, some of the complainants who did not believe Monson’s version, visited his house in Kaloor, Ernakulam district. As per the complaint, it is after seeing the high-end life that Monson had been living there and his antique collection, that the complainants trusted him. Accordingly, between the period of 2017 June to 2020 November, a total of Rs 10 crore was given by the complainants, in various sums to Monson. In the complaint, they also state that till date, he has not returned any money.
As per the complainants, Monson had also claimed that he held many significant posts like member of the World Peace Council, patron of Pravasi Malayali Federation — an international association of Keralites.
Notably, old media reports showing images of police beat boxes in front of his house in Kochi, have surfaced. As per reports, this was done to give police protection to Monson and his museum.
So how did a person like Monson, who allegedly faked his degrees, manage to cheat crores of rupees from numerous people across the state, some even holding top positions? From stories tumbling out in the media, it is evident that top police officers were pally enough with Monson to keep him informed about the complaints against him. One such audio conversation doing the rounds has a top police officer warning Monson that there are whistleblowers within his team.
After Monson’s arrest, earlier media reports of his private museum in Kochi, have now become viral on social media. Monson claimed to have paintings made by Leonardo da Vinci and Raja Ravi Varma, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita which was with Chhatrapati Shivaji, the staff of Moses from the Bible’s Old Testament, the staff of Sree Narayana Guru, the original title deed of the Mysore Palace, the throne of the Travancore king, the first ever gramophone, the first printed Bible in the world, the Quran used by Saddam Hussain and so on, to name a few. The police will now inspect these claims.
Another aspect that has become clear is that the social connections Monson had with celebrities and top state officials, including police officials and politicians, helped him attract attention and potential investors. Monson used to bring several VIPs to his palatial residence, a part of which was converted into a museum to house his 'precious' antiques.
According to the complainants, Monson used to send them photos of him with various politicians and top police officials in Kerala, whenever they expressed apprehension about giving money or delayed it. Detailing one such alleged instance, the complainants have said that in November 2018, present Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee President K Sudhakaran visited Monson’s house in Kaloor and allegedly promised Monson to ‘solve all issues in Delhi’. They have also alleged that they handed over Rs 25 lakh to Monson in the presence of K Sudhakaran. While Sudhakaran has accepted that he knew Monson, he has denied the allegation regarding the financial transactions.
The complaint also states that Monson had sent them pictures of retired IPS officer Sreelekha, Member of Parliament Hibi Eden, former Chief Secretary Jiji Thompson, former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee Vice President Lali Wilson, and former minister Mons Joseph, visiting him in his house.
Speaking to the media, former Chief Secretary Jiji Thompson said that it was before the COVID-19 pandemic that he, along with his wife and others, had met Monson as he was a patron of the Kerala Pravasi Malayalee Federation.
"I also saw the antique collection, but I had doubts about its authenticity. He asked me if I knew Loknath Behera. I said I knew him as we had worked together but there were no personal relations," said Thompson. MP Hibi Eden also reacted to the media, asking reporters to stay away from making ‘defamatory, false claims’.
Monson had also claimed that in 2019, he had even held discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, about clearing his issues related with the Foreign Exchange Management Act, the complaint alleges.
Meanwhile, on September 28, after Monson’s arrest, a Kochi woman came out to the media, alleging that he had been threatening and harassing her, demanding that she back off from the sexual assault complaint that she had filed against Monson’s friend.
Watch video of the woman's allegation: