x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Woman urges conman's victims to come forward

A businesswoman conned out of hundreds of thousands of dirhams by a 'godman' hopes other victims will come forward.

Seraphine Edwin, who has lived in Dubai for more than 10 years, was once a friend of Santosh Madhavan, who is also known as Swami Amritachaitanya.
Seraphine Edwin, who has lived in Dubai for more than 10 years, was once a friend of Santosh Madhavan, who is also known as Swami Amritachaitanya.

An Indian businesswoman conned out of hundreds of thousands of dirhams by a controversial astrologer and guru says she hopes his other victims in Dubai will come forward following her damning testimony to Indian police. Seraphine Edwin, who has lived in Dubai for more than 10 years, was once a friend of Santosh Madhavan, who is also known as Swami Amritachaitanya.

The self-styled "godman" or saint, who claimed to have supernatural powers and to see the future, befriended Mrs Edwin before cheating her out of Dh400,000 (US$109,000) for a bogus hotel venture in 2002. Mrs Edwin, a director of a Dubai plumbing and fittings company and a mother of three, last week returned from giving evidence in Kerala against Madhavan, who has been denied bail. Other allegations against him include the rape of several underage girls and making pornographic films.

"I am happy that the police have taken up the case in Kerala," said Mrs Edwin. "They called me several times to enquire about details of the Dh400,000 transaction. They wanted to know how the money was given and who else was involved." Many others from Dubai had been cheated by the guru, she said, but were too scared to come forward. "He is very influential in India and so no one complained," she said.

"However, now that he is exposed, I hope more people will come forward." Madhavan's bank accounts have been frozen, and he is awaiting trial in Kerala. "I am very hopeful I will get my money back since the case has now got so much attention," said Mrs Edwin. "His bank accounts have been blocked, so I know my money is safe. "He cheated me and I am glad that he has been caught for his acts. I hope that no one should suffer as much as I did."

After fleeing Dubai, Madhavan returned to his native Kerala, building a palatial ashram in Kochi and founding a trust called Shanthitheeram. The ashram was used as a guesthouse to accommodate his astrology clients, whom he claims included politicians, film stars, high-profile policemen and businessmen. It is understood he was arrested in Kerala, India's southernmost state, on an Interpol "red alert" notice issued on the advice of Dubai police in 2004.

The net began to close in on Madhavan after a magazine article revealed he was wanted by Dubai police on fraud charges. Indian detectives raided his 16-suite ashram in May after several other complaints were lodged against him. A search uncovered pornographic DVDs, drugs and the pelt of an endangered tiger. Mrs Edwin will return to India to help to build a case against Madhavan and encourage more people to come forward.

* The National