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404 Philippine passports seized from suspected loanshark

31 August 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao

A loan sharking operation busted by police in North Point looks to be bigger than initially reported, with more than 400 Philippine passports seized from a Hong Kong man and his Filipina helper who were arrested on Aug 13, a Consulate official said.

The passports were hocked by cash-strapped OFWs for quick loans from the 65-year-old man surnamed Chung.

The helper was arrested when police searched Chung’s flat in North Point for allegedly acting as his runner in the illicit business. A police spokeswoman said both Chung and his helper have been allowed to post bail but were ordered to report back to police in early September.

In an interview, Consul Paulo Saret said a total of 404 passports were recovered during the police operation.

The arrests came more than a month after a 64-year-old man was nabbed by police in a sting operation in Tsuen Wan on July 4 that led to the recovery of about 850 passports, mostly owned by Indonesian workers.

Saret said investigators of the North Point case had requested the ATN for contact details of the passport holders so officers could call and ask them to give police statements. He urged the passport holders to cooperate when the police call them.

Saret, head of the Consulate assistance to nationals section, reminded OFWs they are in Hong Kong to work, not to lend or borrow money.

“Huwag mangutang, huwag naman magpautang, kasi yung iba nagpapautang. Kapag hindi na mabayaran, problemado na, mag-aaway na sila nung nangutang,” Saret said.

He also advised the workers, especially those who need cash urgently, not to use their passports as loan collateral.

“Hindi iyan ang solusyon, madudoble o matitriple ang problema mo once na isinangla mo na ang passport mo. Yung interest mo, 120% per annum. Paano mo mababayaran iyon? At pagdating ng oras, hindi ka maiisyuhan ng passport basta-basta,” he said.   

Police said Chung was arrested at the corner of King’s Road and Shu Kuk St by officers from the Regional Anti-Triad Unit of Hong Kong Island while lending money to two Filipino women aged 29 and 37.

Chung allegedly lent money at 120 percent interest per year, which was twice the legal limit of 60%,  and collected passports and employment contracts as collateral.

The police spokeswoman could not say whether any more suspects had been arrested since
Chung’s arrest as part of the anti-loan-sharking operation codenamed “Sky Scroller and Thunderbolt 18”.

Aside from the passports, $100,000 cash, a laptop computer and two mobile phones, officers seized records of Chung’s illegal transactions.

Other reports said the illicit money lending had been in operation for two years, and targeted mainly Filipino domestic workers on Hong Kong Island.

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