Naked greed puts loan victims in the frame

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 October, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 October, 1994, 12:00am

LOANSHARKS, known for their cruel and violent methods of making money, have focused on a more subtle way of stripping the assets of their victims.

In a classic case of naked greed, the gangsters are forsaking their traditional weapons of bamboo poles, choppers and pistols for Polaroid cameras . . . and photographing their 'clients' naked.

If the loans, along with their extortionate interest, are not repaid on time the pictures are made public.

'This is happening in Macau and Hong Kong,' said one police officer. 'If they don't pay up, they put up the photos where the people live or work.

'I don't think it has ever come to that because people normally pay up because of face.' Loansharks charge interest rates of up to 70 per cent per week and operate through most levels of the community, principally targeting gamblers who are down on their luck.

Young men working for the gangs hang around in Macau's thriving casinos looking for losing gamblers who are short of money. They are then offered a loan which many accept believing they can win their money back with the extra cash.

According to a police source, loansharks have also 'framed' customers by making them pose for photographs with the hired thugs who would be sent to enforce the payment of the debt if it was not paid on time.

As a warning, if they were late with their payments, a copy of the photograph was sent to the family to remind them who would be calling for the money.

Another officer said it was common practice to photograph nightclub hostesses, who were frequent users of loansharks, in the nude and then to blackmail them.

He said this was sometimes done after they had borrowed money and had been late in making payments.