Police smash HK$8m loansharking gang

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 13 April, 2007, 12:00am

Kwai Tsing district police have smashed an HK$8 million loansharking syndicate and arrested six men and four women.

More than 60 debtors have fallen prey to the gang, which has been operating for at least a year.

The victims often had to pay interest rates of between 250 and 1,000 per cent, depending on how quickly they repaid their loans.

'In some cases, the debt may never have been cleared, as the loansharks used all kinds of bullying tactics to extort further payments,' said assistant district commander Daniel Leung Chin-wah.

One of the debtors, who borrowed HK$2,000, could not clear his debt even after paying more than HK$20,000 in five weeks.

The 10 suspects arrested in 'Operation Voicemaker' on Wednesday were between 23 and 59. Police also seized bankbooks, mobile phones, deposit receipts and computers in the action involving 49 officers.

'We believe most of the gang leaders have been snared, although one of them is still on the run,' said Mr Leung.

Police said similar gangs may exist in large numbers in Hong Kong.

The syndicate targeted low-income people, who could not produce proof of income to borrow from registered firms, often by advertising in newspapers.

The loans were usually for small amounts, but they soon snowballed on outrageous interest rates. Police said the loansharks often resorted to blackmail or even violence in recovering debts.

Many debtors were also required to open a bank account, to be controlled by the syndicate, using their personal particulars.

'The syndicate asked them to deposit their payments into the account - a tactic to avoid being tracked down by police,' said Mr Leung.

He said the gang may have preyed on more people, and called for any loansharking victims to come forward.