200 arrested and 70 charged in islandwide anti-loansharking blitz

200 arrested and 70 charged in islandwide anti-loansharking blitz

SINGAPORE - Police have arrested a total of 200 suspects aged between 19 and 74 in an island-wide anti-loansharking operation which took place between August 26 to 29.

These 140 men and 60 women are suspected to be involved in loansharking activities.

During the 69-hour operation, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the six land divisions conducted simultaneous raids at multiple locations in Singapore, resulting in the arrests.

Preliminary investigations indicated that 11 suspects are believed to be involved in loansharking activities as harassers, or as runners who facilitated the loansharks in their business dealings by collecting Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards and carrying out ATM transfers.

Police also arrested 19 suspects who are believed to have provided false contact information when obtaining loans from loansharks, resulting in innocent victims being harassed.

Investigations under National Registration Act will be carried out against these 19 suspects for failing to report change of address.

The remaining 170 suspects are believed to have opened bank accounts and given away their ATM cards and Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) to loansharks to facilitate their unlicensed moneylending business.

Of the 200 suspects, three of them will be charged in Court on August 30 under the Moneylenders Act. Investigations against the remaining suspects are ongoing.

Separately, another 67 people will be charged in Court on August 30 for their involvement in loansharking activities as runners and bank account holders. The 67 were arrested in previous anti-loansharking operations.

Under the law, 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 imprisoned for a term of up to four years and is also liable to caning of 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 shall be punished with imprisonment for a term of up to five years, a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, and shall also be liable to caning of between three to six strokes.

Anybody found guilty of providing false contact information to obtain loans from loansharks can be sentenced to a prison term of up to 12 months. Under the National Registration Act, anybody found guilty of failing to report a change of address can be fined up to $5,000, or imprisoned for a term of up to five years, or both.

The police said: "By surrendering bank accounts to loanshark syndicates, or by assisting them to transfer money or to carry out harassment acts, these perpetrators are actually helping the syndicates to evade police detection. Police will continue to clamp down hard on all these perpetrators and bring them to justice."

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.

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