Fake antique dealer Monson Mavunkal case twist: Petitioners to face illegal hawala transaction charges

The whole case turns murkier, with petitioners alleging the investigator collected ransom, while theft is reported from Mavunkal's "museum".

ByK A Shaji

Published Mar 20, 2024 | 9:00 AMUpdatedMar 20, 2024 | 9:21 AM

Fake antique dealer Monson Mavunkal case twist: Petitioners to face illegal hawala transaction charges

Kochi-based conman Monson Mavunkal was arrested almost three years ago on charges that he cheated many people by presiding over a sensational fake antique racket scam.

He is now back in public focus with allegations of alleged hawala transactions and bribery involving the petitioners and investigators against him.

A theft at the sealed rented house of Mavunkal at Kaloor in the heart of Kochi late last week has added to the high drama, which may witness significant developments in the coming days.

Related: MV Govindan links Congress’ K Sudhakaran to Monson Mavunkal

The case


Self-styled antique dealer Monson Mavunkal. (Supplied)

The Crime Branch of the Kerala Police detained Mavunkal, a native of Cherthala in the Alappuzha district who claimed to possess rare and historic antiques, in September 2021 following complaints of swindling ₹10 crore from a set of people from Kozhikode.

The complainants claimed that Mavunkal had taken money from them to clear procedures so that he could withdraw ₹2.65 lakh crore from a foreign bank account that the purported antique dealer was allegedly operating.

Kozhikode-based businessman Yakoob Purayil and his five friends had given him that money after Mavunkal allegedly promised them huge returns after getting the expected amount from the foreign bank.

Other than Yakoob Purayil, the complainants against him are Siddique Purayil, Anoop V Ahmmed, Salim Edathil, AT Shameer, and Shanimon.

The issue witnessed a political twist when the petitioners alleged they were given the money based on assurances from Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president K Sudhakaran, who is slated to contest the Kannur Lok Sabha constituency for the second consecutive term.

The crime branch, which probed the case, filed the charge sheet recently, making Mavunkal the first and Sudhakaran the second accused, triggering a large-scale political sensation in the state.

Sudhakaran then alleged that he was being named in the case as per the directives of  Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, who also hails from Kannur. The territorial fight between the two strongmen is famous.

Though the trial in the case has yet to begin, Mavunkal is undergoing life imprisonment after a POCSO court found him guilty of repeatedly raping a 17-year-old girl.

Related: Monson Mavunkal sentenced to life for raping minor

The hawala accusations

Crime Branch Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) YR Rustom, who investigated both the cheating and the rape cases against Mavunkal, gave a curious twist to the whole developments on Monday, 18 March.

He told reporters that ₹7.9 crore of the ₹10 crore given by Yakoob and his friends to Mavunkal was hawala money.

Hawala is a traditional trust-based money-transfer system that is illegal in India under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

“The only bank transaction involved in the deal was ₹2.1 crore. The remaining amount was hawala money,” said Rustom.

“Knowing about this, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has started action against them [the petitioners],” he added.

“In this context, they were exerting pressure on me not to inform the ED about it, and I told them that this information would be handed over,” Rustom told reporters on Monday.

On Tuesday, Yakoob gave an interview to a set of Malayalam news channels challenging Rustom to prove that he and his friends used hawala money in the transactions.

Giving a new dimension to the controversy, the petitioner claimed he and his friends were ready to face any investigation by any agency, as the whole allegation was a fabrication by the DySP.

He also repeated his earlier allegation that Rustom extorted huge amounts from him many times during the probe against Mavunkal, threatening to otherwise implicate him in false cases.

Also Read: Sudhakaran files defamation case against CPI(M) secretary Govindan

Yakoob’s allegations

Yakoob has already filed a complaint with the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) of Kerala against Rustom on extortion charges, and the state agency has already recorded the statement of the DySP.

As per Yakoob’s allegation, the DYSP was more keen on the rape case than the cheating case, and added and removed names from the list of accused on a whim.

Some people of interest were deliberately excluded from the investigation, he said.

Asked about the allegation that the probe officer took bribes from complainants, Rustom said the claim was that they gave money before he started the probe.

“They claimed they gave money six or nine months before I took over the probe. That’s ridiculous. Since I’m a party in this case, I will present all evidence related to the fresh developments in the High Court, which supervises the investigations,” he said.

Crime Branch officials said the petitioners would be accused in an illegal hawala transaction case once the ED takes over the case, probably by next week.

The Crime Branch also claimed there was evidence that the petitioners conspired with some relatives of Mavunkal in the last few days to dilute the charges against him.

They say the bribe charge against investigators was a part of the move to escape from the hawala dealing case.

Related: Sudhakaran named second accused in Monson Mavunkal case

Theft at ‘museum’

In the meantime, the Kochi City Police launched a probe into the alleged theft at the rented house of Mavunkal.

The conman complained from jail that antiques had gone missing from his “museum”.

Rustom and his crime branch team inspected the house on Monday and collected evidence. The DySP said the house key was kept at the Ernakulam North Police Station, and police security was initially given. The security was withdrawn after it was determined that whatever was kept in the house was not an antique.

He said there were no signs of a break-in, and someone with a duplicate key could have gotten inside. The Ernakulam North police would conduct a further probe, he said.

Rustom said the stolen materials were valuable metals like copper, and 15 items had gone missing. However, no “antiques” were missing, he added.

He also said 900 fake antiques carved by a sculptor named Santhosh were safe at the house. There are 1,800-2,000 claimed antiques in the house, he added.

The police said the thief entered the house using fake keys without attempting to break the doors or windows.

Related: Sudhakaran held, gets bail in cheating case involving Monson Mavunkal

Playing different roles

Sudhakaran (centre) with Monson Mavunkal (fourth right). Supplied

Sudhakaran (centre) with Monson Mavunkal (fourth right). Supplied

Now aged 54, Mavunkal pretended to be a multi-talented personality, playing roles such as a public speaker, doctor, cosmetologist, art promoter, and antique collector.

His ability to pass off an ordinary walking stick as the staff of Moses and small earthen pots made on the outskirts of Kochi as Lord Krishna’s favourite dahi handi is now a part of contemporary folklore.

The quack-cum-antique dealer even sold a decorated chair as the throne of Tipu Sultan.

In the case of Sudhakaran, the KPCC leader repeatedly admitted that he met Mavunkal on seven different occasions to treat his skin disease, believing in the latter’s claimed capabilities as a dermatologist.

Mavunkal allegedly made false representations about himself and his business to various people and collected money from them.

Many images of Mavunkal with senior police officers and bureaucrats of the state have surfaced, and they included those of former Kerala Police chief Loknath Behra.