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Four locals arrested in loan shark ring targeting Filipino helpers

06 August 2020

.By The SUN
 
More than 100 OFWs were made to sign up  for loans with the syndicate at 195% interest rate

Hong Kong police say they have released on bail two local men and two local women who were arrested in a crackdown yesterday, Aug 5, on a loan shark syndicate that preyed on Filipino domestic helpers coming to this city.

A police spokeswoman said charges have not yet been filed against the four as investigations into their money laundering and loan sharking operations are ongoing.


The four, aged 52 to 74, were arrested in a police swoop in North Point, Wong Tai Sin and Western. They were instructed to report to the police in early September, she said.

But the police did not give the names of the arrested persons, the lending companies they represented in Hong Kong, and their partner agencies in the Philippines.
The syndicate’s partner finance companies in the Philippines reportedly lent money totaling $23 million to more than 100 successful job applicants to pay for their agency fee and related services such as medical and training costs.

The workers paid back the loans to the Hong Kong syndicate in monthly installments at excessive interest rates as high as 195% a year, more than triple the 60% legal ceiling.
Under Hong Kong laws, lending firms that charge more than a 60% are liable to a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a $5 million fine if convicted. Employment agencies are also prohibited from charging their recruits more than 10% of their first monthly salary.

In the Philippines it is illegal for employment agencies to charge placement fees from job applicants. But some agencies force the workers to go to lending companies and take out loans to pay for their services, masked as training and other fees.
  
Police started investigating after 17 OFWs complained about being charged up to $14k a month as repayment
Police began investigating this particular case when 17 workers who were made to pay $6,000 to $14,000 monthly within three to six months of their arrival reported the illegal operation.
“The syndicate signed contracts with the helpers through finance companies in the Philippines. They borrowed between $4,000 and $8,000 in pesos,” local media reports quoted Chief Inspector Tang Hoi-ting of the narcotics bureau’s financial investigation team as saying.

Tang said the syndicate did not inform the workers they would be paying such a high interest rate when lending the money.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love

Officers seized computers, cash and receipts during the raids and froze $5 million that the syndicate held in a bank account.
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