Suspected ringleader of triad-controlled loan-shark syndicate among 21 arrested in Hong Kong
Investigations show hundreds of debtors borrowed money from the syndicate, which pocketed profits of more than HK$22 million over three years on huge interest rates
The suspected ringleader of a triad-controlled loan-shark syndicate and nine core members were among 21 people arrested in a series of raids in Hong Kong on Wednesday and Thursday after lending money to two undercover police officers at interest rates of up to 1,600 per cent a year.
Investigations showed hundreds of debtors borrowed money from the syndicate, which had been in operation since 2014 and pocketed profits of more than HK$22 million through illegal loans, according to police.
A police source said two undercover officers including a policewoman were deployed in June to borrow money from the syndicate to gather evidence.
After detailed investigations and financial analysis, officers from the New Territories North regional crime unit swooped into action and raided about 20 locations across the city from Wednesday night.
The alleged mastermind is a suspected Wo Shing Wo triad member who was picked up at his New Territories home on Wednesday night.
Shortly before midnight, police raided the operational base of the syndicate in Tung Choi Street, Mong Kok, where officers arrested five men and seized HK$240,000 and a large quantity of documents. Police believe the five Hongkongers were the syndicate’s core members.
Police arrested another 15 people – 11 men and four women – in the operation codenamed ‘Mounttopper”. The operation was continuing on Thursday night.
Chief Inspector Chan Yan of the New Territories North regional crime unit said the arrested people included those suspected of lending their bank accounts to help the syndicate collect repayments from debtors.
He said the syndicate used about 20 bank accounts to launder its crime proceeds over the past three years.
According to police, the syndicate left advertisements on mobile phone apps in a bid to find borrowers.
“They targeted those who could not secure loans from banks or licensed moneylenders so they had to turn to loan-shark gangs,” Chan said.
He said loan amounts ranged from thousands of dollars to tens of thousands.
Senior inspector Ngan Hoi-lan said debtors who borrowed HK$10,000 were required to pay 20 per cent of the loan amount as a handling charge and HK$1,000 in interest every 10 days.
“Those who failed to pay the HK$1,000 interest were charged HK$500 interest each day,” she said adding that some debtors were charged a rate of up to 1,600 per cent a year.
The highest legal interest rate is 60 per cent.
She said some who failed to repay their loans were forced to help the gang collect debts from other borrowers.
The suspects, aged from 25 to 72, were being held for questioning on Thursday night and had not been charged.