S'pore records 21% drop in loansharking cases

SINGAPORE - For the six-month period of January to June 2012, there were 5,228 reported cases of unlicensed moneylending and related harassment.

This represents a drop of 21 per cent compared to the 6,642 cases reported in the same period in 2011, said Second Minister for Home Affairs and Trade and Industry Mr S Iswaran in Parliament today.

In contrast, the number of people arrested rose by 22 per cent to 1,033 between the same two six-month periods. This overall improvement in the situation continues the trend which began two years ago, Mr Iswaran said.

The minister added that the improvement can be attributed to factors such as the severe penalties being widely publicised and the police having stepped-up enforcement and preventive education efforts, as well as engagement with community partners.

However, he warned that the fight against unlicensed moneylending is far from over as loansharks are becoming more sophisticated and resorting to new methods to lure victims.

This includes advertising their services via e-mail blasts and SMSs - both of which are illegal under Singapore law.

Mr Iswaran was speaking in reply to a question by Member of Parliament for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency Er Dr Lee Bee Wah.

She also asked whether the ministry will consider making borrowing from loansharks an offence.

In response, Mr Iswaran said that the Government has has no plans at this juncture to criminalise borrowing.

He added that the Government would rather focus on preventive education, enforcement, and community engagement to tackle the issue.

He said that his ministry will closely monitor the effectiveness of current measures before assessing the need, if any, for tougher measures.

yamadak@sph.com.sg

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