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Loan shark victims only get temporary travel papers

17 April 2017

By Vir B.Lumicao
Passports seized by police from loansharks.


About a third of the Filipinos whose passports were recovered from a loan sharking syndicate last month have reportedly come forward to inform the Consulate.

An officer of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section has told The SUN that a few of the passport owners have been issued temporary travel documents so they could renew their work visas.
At least two of the recovered passports belonged to OFWs whose friends swapped them with their own so they could process new work contracts.

The ATN officer said the owners could get their passports back, but that could take some time as the police are keeping them as evidence against those behind the usurious lending operation that targeted Filipino domestic workers.

But even if they are recovered, the documents are deemed “as good as cancelled” because of the Consulate’s policy of canceling passports used as collaterals for loans.

A Filipina domestic worker found this out on April 2 when she reported to the ATN that her passport was among those recovered by the police from the loan sharks.

The helper was told she would not be able to get her passport back as it had been automatically cancelled. She was instead given a travel document valid for three months so she could process her visa renewal.

She was also told she could not be issued a new passport until the case against the recently dismantled loan sharking syndicate was concluded.

A local couple, their Filipino maid and seven of her compatriots were arrested by officers from the Organized Crime and Triad Bureau on March 12-13 in a series of raids that yielded 242 passports, $106,000, numerous bank documents, work contracts, notebooks listing the borrowers, and other evidence.

The police said in just eight months, the syndicate had made $12 million in illicit interest from the $10 million it lent to about 1,200 Filipino helpers at an interest rate of 10% a month, or 120% a year.
Those arrested have been released on bail but told to report to the police in mid-April.

Police said they are watching other loan sharking syndicates targeting Filipino domestic helpers and are asking the community to contact them on the hotline, Tel. No. 6348 1240, if they had been victimized by such groups.

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