113 suspects arrest for loan shark activities

SINGAPORE - A total of 113 loan shark runners, harassers, bank account holders and debtors, aged between 15 and 72, have been arrested by the police in an anti-loan sharking operation conducted from Sept 23 to 26.

Simultaneous raids were conducted island-wide, and the operation involved officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and six police land divisions, according to the police statement.

Among the 80 men and 33 women arrested, nine are suspected loan shark runners. They are believed to have carried out Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transfers, verifying the debtors' particulars and checking debtors' units to confirm that harassment acts had been carried out by other harassers.

Another nine suspects were believed to have carried out loanshark-harassment such as splashing paint and scrawling loanshark-related graffiti on walls. A debtor, who is believed to have supplied false contact information when obtaining loans from loan sharks, was also one of the 113 suspects arrested.

The remaining 94 suspects are believed to have opened bank accounts and given away their ATM cards and account details to the loansharks to facilitate the loansharking activities.

The police added that investigations against all the suspects are ongoing.

Under the Moneylenders' Act, 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 loan sharks may be fined between $30,000 and $300,000, be imprisoned for a term of up to four years and shall also be liable to be punished with caning of up to six strokes.

First-time offenders guilty of harassment for loan sharks shall be jailed up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and shall also be liable to caning of between three and six strokes.

Any person who is guilty of providing false contact information to obtain loans from loan sharks is liable to be imprisoned up to 12 months.  It is also an offence for failing to report a change of address under the National Registration Act, with a fine of up to $5,000, or imprisonment for a term of up to five years, or both.

The police stressed that they would continue to take tough enforcement action against those involved in the loansharking business, regardless of their roles, including those who open or give away their bank account details.

Members of public are advised to stay away from loan sharks and not to work with or assist the 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.