222 people under probe for loan-sharking activities
Suspects, aged between 15 and 77, were arrested in two-week police crackdown
A total of 222 people are under investigation for loan-sharking activities after being nabbed during a two-week police blitz that ended on Sunday.
The suspects are aged between 15 and 77, the police said yesterday.
The police crackdown began on Oct 26, during which officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the seven police land divisions conducted simultaneous raids at numerous locations all over the island.
Preliminary investigations revealed that nine of the suspects had allegedly conducted harassment at the homes of debtors, and 27 suspects are believed to be runners who assisted the loan sharks by carrying out automated teller machine (ATM) transfers, the police said.
The remaining 186 suspects are believed to have opened bank accounts and given away their ATM cards, personal identification number (PIN) and/or Internet banking tokens to loan sharks to facilitate unlicensed moneylending businesses.
The police said loan sharks are increasingly turning to unsolicited loan advertisements via text messages or online platforms. They warned the public not to reply or respond to such ads and report the WhatsApp messages as spam.
Those who know of or are suspicious of anyone who could be involved in illegal loan-sharking activities can call the police on 999 or the X-Ah Long hotline on 1800-924-5664.
The police will continue to take tough enforcement action against those involved in the loan-sharking business regardless of their roles, and they will "face the full brunt of the law", the statement said.
Under the Moneylenders' Act (Revised Edition 2010), when a bank account, ATM card or Internet banking token of any person is used to facilitate moneylending by an unlicensed moneylender, that person is presumed to have assisted in carrying out the business of unlicensed moneylending.
First-time offenders found guilty of carrying out or assisting in a business of unlicensed moneylending face a fine of between $30,000 and $300,000, jail of up to four years and are also liable to face up to six strokes of the cane.
First-time offenders found guilty of acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment face a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000, jail of up to five years, and shall also be liable to face between three and six strokes of the cane.
By the numbers
222 Number of suspects
15 and 77 Age of youngest and oldest suspect
9 Number of suspects who allegedly harassed debtors at their homes
27 Number of suspected loan shark runners
186 Number of suspects who opened bank accounts and gave away their ATM cards, PIN and/or Internet banking tokens to loan sharks