Singapore police conducted a three-day operation from February 25 to 27 and arrested 74 men and 37 women for their suspected involvement in loansharking activities.
Officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the seven police land divisions carried out the raids at multiple locations in Singapore and arrested a total of 111 suspects, aged between 16 and 73.
After the initial investigation, the officers came to know that 14 suspects are believed to carry out Automated Teller Machine (ATM) transfers on behalf of loan-sharks. The investigators also believe that three other suspects were involved in several acts of loanshark harassment by splashing paint and scrawling loanshark-related graffiti on walls. There are two more suspects, who are believed to have provided false contact information for the purpose of obtaining loans.
The investigation also revealed that remaining 92 suspects allegedly have opened bank accounts and gave their ATM cards, as well as Personal Identification Numbers to loan-sharks to facilitate their unlicensed moneylending businesses. However, the investigation is ongoing.
As per the news release, published by Singapore Police Force (SPF), "Opening a bank account, distributing pamphlets, acting as a look-out, being a runner or acting as a harasser for loansharks are criminal activities that have serious consequences, such as a hefty fine, jail term and even caning."
It also added that the authority will take "tough enforcement action against those involved in the loansharking business, regardless of their roles, and they will face the full brunt of the law."
The Moneylenders' Act (Revised Edition 2010) states that when a bank account or ATM card of a person is used to carry out 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 carrying on or assisting in a 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 be punished with caning between three and six strokes.
If the court finds a person guilty for providing false contact information to obtain loans from loan-sharks, he or she will face a jail term 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 will be liable for an imprisonment term of up to five years, or a fine of up to $5000, or to both.
"Loansharks are increasingly sending unsolicited loan advertisements via text messages or online platforms. Members of the public are reminded not to reply or respond to such advertisements and report the number as spam. 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," police added.