Under fire, Kerala Police beefs up team probing fake antique dealer

It has been testing times for the Kerala Police, which is facing tough questions since the arrest of fraudulent antique dealer Monson Mavunkal last month, after pictures of recently retired state police chief Loknath Behra and serving Additional Director General of Police Manoj Abraham in his company surfaced.

Putting up a brave face, the police has added another 10 more officers to the Crime Branch team set up to untangle the activities of Mavunkal, as social media users slam the police and the authorities for giving him a “free hand” to cheat.

Mavunkal was arrested by the Crime Branch last month after six people complained that he had cheating them to the tune of over Rs 6 crore and he continues to be in their custody for questioning.

The 54-year-old “antiques” dealer used to bring several VIPs to his palatial residence, a part of which was converted into museum to house his “precious” antiques, which he claimed included the “staff” of Prophet Moses and “two of the 30 silver coins that were taken by Judas to cheat Jesus Christ”.

Police said that he had showcased these “rare” items, which also included a throne said to be used by Tipu Sultan, as well as a huge collection of old Qurans, Bibles (Old Testament and New Testament), and old handwritten copies of Bhagavad Gita, to impress his high-profile guests.

The Kerala High Court dropped enough hints on the sanctity of the probe by the police, when its top brass failed to see through the master fraud, who took everyone whom he acquainted with for a ride, forcing the court to even say that the whole world is laughing hearing the claims of his possession.

Making things more tough for the police is Mavunkal’s alleged links with the high and mighty and the purported role of a woman – which has become a sort of norm in high-profile cases Kerala, like the recent gold smuggling and the earlier solar case.

In this case too, the presence of Italy-settled Keralite woman Anita Pullalyil has come up, with pictures showing her in the company of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and top police officials having come out.

Police have now decided to check the call details of Mavunkal for the past five years and even though he claims not to have a passport, the probe team is not leaving anything to chance and will ascertain if he has a duplicate passport, as his main links for his antique business was using his connections with non-resident Indians.

The Motor Vehicles Department officials were also baffled on the antique car collections in the possession of Mavunkal but after an initial probe, it has come to light that a few of them were not original ones, but modified. To make sure of this, MVD officials have already got in touch with their counterparts in a few states.

With the high court also keeping a close tab on the probe and both the Congress and the BJP demanding a probe by a central agency and the Assembly already witnessing an uproar on this, all eyes are on Vijayan on how he will be able to ward of all potential troubles on this count, after riding out the gold smuggling scam.