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21 months, 6 strokes for loan-shark harassment

A Thai national who secured a job in Singapore to harass debtors on behalf of a loan shark was sentenced to 21 months' jail and six strokes of the cane yesterday.

Changchai Suriya, 33, had pleaded guilty to two of five counts of committing acts to annoy flat occupants and causing damage to their property in August.

Investigations showed that while overseas, Suriya looked for a job through a forum called Singtip, where advertisements are put up to recruit people for jobs in Singapore. He contacted a man called Ah Fei, and agreed to travel to Singapore for the job.

On Aug 11, Suriya arrived in Singapore and met Ah Fei at Golden Mile Complex. Ah Fei told him that the job entailed shaming people who owed him money.

Suriya's job was to splash paint, use bicycle locks on debtors' homes, and set fire to their premises. Four days later, Ah Fei gave him an address to set fire to.

At about 2.15am on Aug 15, Suriya took a taxi to a block of flats in Marine Terrace. He defaced the second-level wall beside the unit by using a red marker to write the details of the debtor. He then started a fire outside the unit by pouring Zippo fuel and lighting it.

Suriya used his mobile phone to take pictures of the acts of harassment and send them to Ah Fei. A neighbour called the police.

Earlier that night, Suriya had gone to a block in Tampines Street 42 and splashed black paint at the door of a unit.

He also locked the main gate with a bicycle lock and defaced the third-level wall beside the unit with loan-shark graffiti.

But the owner of the unit and his family members did not owe money to any loan shark and had moved in just one month earlier.

Suriya, who was paid $100 for the acts, was arrested the next day. Police seized several items including gloves, bicycle locks, cans of black paint and red markers from him.

Suriya, whose sentence was backdated to Aug 18, could have been jailed for up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and given up to six strokes of the cane on each charge.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline '21 months, 6 strokes for loan-shark harassment'. Print Edition | Subscribe