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PCG warns anew against use of passports as loan collateral amid record haul from lending company

21 June 2019


By Daisy CL Mandap



The Consulate has issued a new warning against anyone using the Philippine passport as collateral for securing a loan.

The warning, posted late tonight, Jun 20, came in the wake of reports that a record haul of more than 1,400 Philippine passports had been seized by police from a lending company in Sheung Wan called OFC, during a raid on Jun 5.

The passports were collected and kept by the company as collateral from Filipino borrowers.

The Consulate advisory states: “We remind all Filipinos in Hong Kong that all Philippine passports are property of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and shall not be used as collateral for any loans or debts”.
It added that in accordance with the Foreign Service Circular No 214-99 issued on Aug 19, 1999, all passports used as guarantee for loans or debts are “automatically cancelled” upon notice by the passport holder that the document had been lost.

This means that once cancelled, the passport holder will have to apply for a new one, which under current practice, will require him or her to go to the main passport office of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila.

The Consulate will not issue a replacement once it proves that the passport was lost to a money lender.
 
Consul Saret says no replacement for the hocked passports will be made in Hong Kong
Consul Paul Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, has told The SUN they will stick to this policy, even if it will mean long hours of processing requests to replace all the passports that had been seized from OFC.

Once a lost passport is found to have been among those seized from the money lender, the Consulate will issue a one-way travel document to the holder so she can go home and get the replacement in Manila.
In no way will the new passport be replaced in Hong Kong, said Saret, to deter Filipinos from engaging in the practice they have been warned against for years.

“We will just have to find a way to speed up the process,” he said.

More than 200 of the seized passports were initially turned over to the Consulate by officers from the District Crime Squad of the Wan Chai Police Station on Jun 14, and more are expected to be returned after documentation.

The record haul means the ATN section will be kept busy for a long time. Up until now, some of the more than 400 Filipinos whose passports were seized from an unlicensed money lender in North Point late last year are still seeking the Consulate’s help in getting replacements.
 
Filipino borrowers besieged CFC on Jun 9 on learning about the police raid
During the raid on the office of OFC Holding Limited in Ngan House on 206-210 Des Voeux Road Central, police said a 35-year-old local man was arrested for “breach of money lenders licence conditions”.

According to the police statement, an initial investigation revealed that the arrested man had offered loans totaling more than $4 million to more than 1,400 victims, who were asked to surrender their passports and employment contracts as collateral.
Initially, the police had started returning some of the passports to OFC’s borrowers but stopped after the Consulate complained, saying this deviated from the agreed protocol.

Consul Saret said the police had apologized and promised to turn over the remaining passports.

“We already talked to the police that if they don’t want to keep the passports as evidence, they should not be returning the passports directly to the debtors but to the Consulate. They apologized and agreed to stop what they are doing and turn over all the passports to the Consulate tomorrow,” Saret told The SUN.

OFC appears to have convince the police to return the passports despite the raid

By then, at least 30 of the documents had been returned by Wanchai police officers, at the intercession of OFC’s owners.

The suspect, who insiders say is a man surnamed Wong, is listed as part owner of OFC Holding Limited and Cheers Holding Company Limited, which is the one with a money lender's licence. He was reportedly released on police bail and required to report back in mid-July. 

The arrest was apparently over the failure of Wong to register the Sheung Wan address in the money lending license issued to Cheers Holding, but not to OFC . Its license shows addresses in Shamshuipo and Wanchai.

Cheer Holding also operates Cheers Employment Limited, with which it shares the  Wanchai address. A check with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office showed its accreditation to hire Filipino domestic workers was suspended earlier this year.


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