146 arrested in 80-hour anti-loansharking operation

SINGAPORE - Police have arrested 146 suspects, aged between 19 and 72, in an anti-loansharking operation that took place between Apr 20 and 23, 2015. The 96 men and 50 women are suspected to be involved in loansharking activities.

During the 80-hour operation, officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the six Police land divisions conducted simultaneous raids at multiple locations in Singapore to effect the arrests.

Preliminary investigations revealed that nine suspects are believed to be runners who had assisted the loansharks in their businesses by carrying out Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transfers or procuring ATM cards for the syndicates' usage.

Another three suspects are believed to be harassers who had carried out acts of loanshark-harassment by splashing paint and scrawling loanshark-related graffiti on walls.

Police also arrested two suspects who were believed to have provided false contact information when obtaining loans from loansharks.

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

The remaining 132 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 businesses.

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 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 shall also be liable to be punished with 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 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 who is guilty of an offence of failing to report a change of address shall be liable on conviction to a fine of up to $5,000, or to imprisonment for a term of up to five years, or to both.

Police will continue to take tough enforcement action against those involved in the loansharking business, regardless of their roles, including taking action against those who open or give away their bank account/s to aid unlicensed moneylenders.

Members of public are advised to stay away from loansharks 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.