Police arrest 172 in island-wide anti-loanshark blitz

Police have arrested 172 suspects in an island-wide anti-loanshark operation that took place between Tuesday and Friday.

The suspects, 110 men and 62 women aged between 16 and 68, are suspected of involvment in loansharking activities, the police said in a statement.

Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) and the six Police land divisions conducted simultaneous raids at multiple locations.

They also said preliminary investigations showed that 14 suspects were believed to be harassers, or runners who facilitated the loansharks in their businesses by verifying debtors' particulars, procuring Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards and carrying out ATM transfers.

The 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.

The remaining 157 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, the police said.

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 shall also be liable to be punished with caning of up to 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, the police said.