Suspected loanshark bosses arrested

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 12:00am

The suspected heads of two triad-controlled loanshark syndicates were arrested yesterday for allegedly lending money to undercover policemen at interest rates of up to 400 per cent a year.

The gangs, separately controlled by the 14K and Wo Shing Wo triad societies, preyed mainly on taxi drivers and nightclub hostesses, according to investigators.

'The loanshark syndicates targeted them because, in some cases, their income dropped sharply due to the downturn and they ran into financial difficulties,' one detective said.

'They have no proof of income and could not secure loans from banks or licensed money-lenders so they have to turn to loanshark syndicates.'

Police said one of the syndicates lent a total of $900,000 in one month at the extortionate interest rates.

Nine other people were arrested in connection with the syndicates.

Initial investigations revealed that more than 170 debtors had borrowed money at interest rates ranging from 300 to 400 per cent a year from the two syndicates, according to police.

The legal limit for interest rates is 60 per cent a year.

A police source said the 14K-controlled syndicate was active in the Kowloon West region, and the Wo Shing Wo in Kowloon East.

The heads of the syndicates and their members were identified by undercover police officers posing as taxi drivers.

After a month-long investigation, officers arrested 11 people, including the two alleged bosses, in a Kowloon raid.

Police said they would apply to the courts to freeze assets, including three apartments and more than $2 million in bank accounts, linked to the loanshark activities and owned by the two bosses.