Police have arrested 13 people in a triad-backed money-lending operation that charged borrowers extortionate fees.
Police said yesterday more than 130 officers raided six agencies across the city on Tuesday. The triad-backed agencies worked with legitimate moneylenders, forcing borrowers to pay surcharges that ran up the cost of loans to extortionate levels.
Twelve men and a woman, aged 21 to 50, were arrested and 358 promotional banners and seven computers were confiscated in the raids.
"These bloodsuckers are earning a hefty sum of money," said Chief Inspector Yau Nai-keung, from the Kowloon West regional anti-triad unit.
In a previous case, Yau said a man borrowed HK$6,000 but ended up receiving just HK$900 as the bulk of the loan went to the agencies. In effect, the lenders charged 600 per cent interest.
Police said 252 people had borrowed more than HK$4 million through the agencies. Officers posed as borrowers to help uncover the illicit operation.
They found licensed moneylenders used the agencies, which had operated for more than a year in old commercial buildings and were understood to be controlled mainly by the triad groups 14K and Wo Shing Wo.
The agencies collected various kinds of administrative charges, including a "form-filling fee" and service charges, as a way to evade prosecution for levying more than the maximum legal interest rate of 60 per cent per year.
Police said agency staff threatened or detained borrowers to force them to pay the extra charges. Triad members were drafted to help collect the debts, often splashing red paint on borrowers' homes or clogging up the key holes of their homes.