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Breaches in the OFC raid

03 July 2019



By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

Some highly unusual events occurred in the aftermath of the police raid on the Sheung Wan-based money lending company, OFC, on Jun.5.

First, there was no public statement at all on the raid, during which 1,400 Philippine passports were seized by the police, and OFC’s young owner arrested for “breach of the money lenders’ license.”

This was most unusual, given the number of passports seized, and the amount involved. Police said in a belated response to our query that more than $4 million in loans was extended to the “victims” whose passports and work contracts were taken as collateral.

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But what really stumped us was when we learned – and witnessed for ourselves – that the police had begun returning the passports to the borrowers, at the intercession of the OFC owners.

Even officials at our Consulate were in disbelief when they learned about this, as they had been confidently telling everyone that the passports would be kept as evidence, before being turned over to them, in line with standard protocol.

In similar cases in the past, the police were quick to issue press releases, along with photos of the seized passports. Those times, the documents involved were just a fifth of the number found in OFC’s possession.

This time around, everything was kept quiet – until some of the borrowers began asking on Facebook what could happen to them if their passports were among those confiscated by the police.

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We stirred the hornet’s nest when we asked the police public relations branch about the raid. How many passports were seized, whether anyone was arrested, for what charges.

We were expecting at most, about 200 passports, as that was how many people had apparently besieged OFC’s offices two days after the raid.

So when we finally got the police response three days after we emailed our queries, we were stunned. A record haul of 1,400 passports, and not a squeak from the police?

Confounding us more was why police took it upon themselves to do the painstaking task of sorting through the pack of passports so they could hand them back to their individual owners at the say-so of OFC’s owners.

Why seize them in the first place when they would be given back after consulting with the company whose owner was still being investigated for violating his money lender’s license?

Why not keep the passports for the meantime and consult the Philippine Consulate at least on how to dispose of them eventually?

The picture got even hazier when we learned that OFC was using the money lender license issued to another family-owned company, Cheer Holdings Limited, whose given address is in Wanchai and not Sheung Wan.

Then, we also found out that Cheer Holdings has the same owners as Cheers Employment Agency, whose accreditation with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office was recently suspended for confiscating the passports and HK IDs of its recruits from the Philippines.

There is obviously far more to this story than has so far been revealed.

We trust that after sorting through the mess created by such blatant disregard for our laws that forbid the use of our passport as collateral for loans, our Consulate would make good on its promise to ferret out an explanation from the police.

This bane has gone on for too long. It won’t stop if money lenders who violate the law are let off so lightly.
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