127 loanshark runners nabbed in islandwide blitz

127 loanshark runners nabbed in islandwide blitz

SINGAPORE - Police have arrested a total of 127 suspects, aged between 16 and 69 years old, in an island-wide anti-loansharking blitz which took place from June 11 to 13, 2014. The 85 men and 42 women were suspected to be involved in loansharking activities.

According to a media statement, preliminary investigations indicated that 19 suspects were believed to be involved in loansharking activities as harassers, or as runners who facilitated the loansharks in their businesses by procuring Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards, carrying out ATM transfers and advertising loan facilities on behalf of the loansharks.

Police also arrested one suspect who was believed to have provided false contact information when obtaining loans from loansharks, resulting in the innocent house owner being harassed. Investigations under the National Registration Act will also be carried out against the same suspect for failing to report the change of address.

The remaining 107 suspects were believed to have opened bank accounts and given away their ATM cards and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) to loansharks to facilitate their unlicensed moneylending businesses. Investigations against all the suspects are ongoing.

Under the Moneylenders' Act (Revised Edition 2010), when a bank account or ATM card of any person is used to facilitate moneylending by an unlicensed moneylender, that person is presumed to have assisted in the carrying on the business of unlicensed moneylending.

First-time offenders found guilty of assisting in the business of unlicensed moneylending may be fined between $30,000 and $300,000, be jailed for a term of up to four years and may be caned up to six strokes.

First-time offenders found guilty of acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment may face imprisonment for a term of up to five years, a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, and face caning of between three and six strokes.

Any person who is guilty of providing false contact information to obtain loans from loansharks shall be liable upon conviction to imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months. Under the National Registration Act, any person found guilty of failing to report a change of address may be fined up to $5,000, or jailed up to five years, or both.

Members of public are advised to stay away from loansharks and not to work with or assist loansharks in any way. The public can call the Police at '999' or the X-Ah Long hotline at 1800 924 5664 if they suspect or know of anyone who could be involved in illegal loansharking activities.

Head of the Unlicensed Moneylending Strikeforce of CID, Superintendent of Police Aileen Yap said, "By opening or giving away one's bank account to the unlicensed moneylenders, these like-minded individuals have not only assisted the unlicensed moneylenders in their businesses but also facilitated them to evade Police detection. Police will continue to clamp down hard on all those who are involved in loansharking activities."

candicec@sph.com.sg

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