Jail and fine for employer who ran loan shark business with maid

A Singaporean woman who has been found to have operated an unlicensed money-lending business with the help of her Filipina maid was given a jail term of 33 months and fined $160,000 today.

48-year-old Koh Suat Lay, who also used her Filipino maid, Melanie Jacalan Munar, as a runner, is appealing against her conviction and the sentence.

At the trial, which lasted 18 days in June, the 30-year-old maid said she helped her employer lend between $300 to $500 to four Filipino maids from 2009 to November 2011.

The court heard that Munar had began helping fellow Filipino maids buy top-up Sim cards for mobile phones after two to three years into her job.

Payment from these maids would then be collected after they had received their salaries, the court heard.

After this came to light with Koh, she told Munar that she could lend her friends $300 to $500 and charge them a low interest rate.

Agreeing to the deal, Munar helped her employer to ask around if anyone need a loan.

She also helped her to collect repayments from borrowers in Lucky Plaza or their workplaces.

An interest rate of 10 per cent to 50 per cent was charged to the maids, with the loan repayable over one to three months.

In her defence, Koh's lawyer Wee Pan Lee argued that Munar had taken advantage of her employer's naivety and used money loaned interest free to her by Koh for illegal purposes.

Disputing this argument, Deputy Public Prosecutor Paul Cheong said that the records of the debts were in Koh's handwriting.

Munar received a jail term of three months and a fine of $130,000 in April after pleading guilty to assisting in unlicensed money lending.

rchia@sph.com.sg

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