LOAN sharks who were likely deterred by closed-circuit television cameras outside a debtor's home resorted to setting fire to his neighbours' homes instead, residents said.
They were suspected of torching the gates of two families at Block 272, Toh Guan Road to put pressure on the debtor, who is believed to live one floor below the two units.
The two families living in the Jurong East housing block were asleep while the fire was raging outside their homes early on Saturday morning, Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao reported.
Neighbours said the families woke up only when Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers knocked on their doors.
An SCDF spokesman said the fire was extinguished by the time they arrived.
The police said they were informed about the incident at 12.08am on Saturday.
The incident has been classified as a case of suspected unlicensed moneylending harassment by fire.
Lianhe Wanbao reported that CCTV cameras were installed outside the debtor's home.
Neighbours believe that the loan sharks decided to target other flats to avoid being caught on camera.
A 41-year-old neighbour, known only as Mr Lee, told the evening daily that the debtor's door was apparently open when the loan sharks were loitering outside, so they did not dare to set fire to the unit.
One of the victims, who gave her name only as Madam Chen, told Lianhe Wanbao that she was asleep with her husband and son when the fire occurred.
"We completely had no idea what was happening. We got a shock when the doorbell suddenly rang in the middle of the night," she said.
The 50-year-old bookkeeper added that she had seen loan sharks' graffiti on the staircase wall a day before the fire.
Madam Chen said her family feels aggrieved. "We are innocent and got implicated for no reason. Setting fire outside our homes can lead to fatalities," she said.
She added that the debtor's father visited her family to apologise on behalf of his son.
"He said his son had agreed to be the guarantor of his friend's debt. His son got dragged into this," she said.
The debtor's father also offered to repaint Madam Chen's door.
"But I told him there is no point painting the door. It is already destroyed," she added.
This article was first published on June 15, 2015.
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