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HK couple, 8 Pinay DHs held as cops bust loansharking ring

14 March 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

HK Police at a press conference to announce the crackdown
Police say they have busted a loansharking syndicate in the past two days with the arrest of the two alleged masterminds – a Hong Kong couple – and their Filipina domestic helper, as well as seven other Filipino maids who acted as their contacts and runners.

Officers from the Hong Kong police Organized Crime and Triad Bureau also seized $106,285 cash, 242 passports, 14 employment contracts, eight mobile phones, jewelry, a large number of bank records, and debt notes.
Police seized Philippine passports,
jewelry and  mobile phones 
Bureau Superintendent Chan Hon-ming, in a media briefing at the police headquarters on Arsenal St., Wanchai earlier today, Mar. 14, said the arrests were made following complaints from victims about the group’s illegal lending operation that had victimized over 1,000 borrowers, all Filipino helpers.

Those arrested ranged in age from 24 to 58.

Chan said the operation, codenamed “Operation Polarline”, was part of the Guangdong, Macau and Hong Kong police’s larger operation, “Thunderbolt 17”, which targeted loansharking activities.

“In January this year, the Bureau identified a local loan shark syndicate that had given out loans to a large number of Filipino domestic helpers working in Hong Kong at excessive interest rate on the condition that these borrowers surrender their passports and employment contracts as collaterals,” Chan said.

He said the syndicate charged 10% a month interest, or 120% a year.
Some of the seized contracts
used as collaterals
“The (borrowers) could only redeem their collaterals when they settled the loan in full by a one-off payment,” he said.

In one case, a helper borrowed $5,000 and after three weeks, when she tried to redeem her passport because she needed to renew her visa, the syndicate demanded that she pay back $12,000.

Chan said the local couple controlled and operated the syndicate by funding the loans and using their Filipino domestic helper as assistant to run the loan shark scheme.

The maid reportedly reached out to other Filipino domestic helpers for recruiting runners and borrowers to expand their “loan shark business” by giving out the loans and collecting debts, and surrendering the collaterals to the couple until these were redeemed.

The Consulate welcomed the busting of the syndicate, which targeted mainly Filipinas, but said it had yet to get official notification from the police on the case.

There has been a surge in reporting lost passports among Hong Kong OFWs, with the Consulate receiving two to three such reports daily. In many of these cases, the owners had reportedly admitted using the travel document as loan collateral.

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