2 teens accused of loan shark activity

The suspects Chong (in front) and Sea being taken to the flat on the 10th floor of Block 59, Lengkok Bahru. The two are believed to be involved in other cases of loan shark harassment by fire reported in Hougang Street 51 and Sembawang Drive.
The suspects Chong (in front) and Sea being taken to the flat on the 10th floor of Block 59, Lengkok Bahru. The two are believed to be involved in other cases of loan shark harassment by fire reported in Hougang Street 51 and Sembawang Drive. ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Pair who allegedly set fire to door of rental flat taken to scene of crime

Mr R. Tan was in his bedroom with his wife and 14-month-old son at about 2am on May 1 when he heard his neighbour shout: "Your door is on fire!"

Rushing out, the 50-year-old property agent, who declined to reveal his full name, saw smoke billowing from the front door of his Lengkok Bahru flat. Parts of the wall in his living room were blackened.

He quickly put out the fire with a pail of water and called the police.

Mr Tan's family had moved in just two weeks earlier.

He believes the perpetrators were targeting the flat's former occupants, who he said had issues with moneylenders.

Yesterday morning, the police took two young men accused of loan shark harassment by fire to the scene on the 10th floor of Block 59. They had allegedly set the door of the rental flat ablaze around 2am on May 1 using petrol.

Sea Jiasheng, 16, and Chong Sheng Wei, 18, who were charged last Friday, arrived at the scene in an unmarked grey van.

With their heads bowed, the pair were led from the vehicle in wrist and ankle restraints. Police officers questioned them for about two minutes at the victim's front gate, before leading them away.

Recounting the night of the incident, Mr Tan said: "I was wondering if the fire was set on purpose. When I saw the word 'Andy' on the wall outside, I realised it was loan shark harassment."

The name, which had been scrawled four times outside his flat, remained faintly visible under a fresh coat of white paint. His gate has been repainted, but burn marks are still visible on the floor.

After putting out the fire that night, the couple noticed that their baby's nostrils were blackened. They took him to the hospital the next day.

"We are lucky the fire didn't spread," said Mr Tan, who has decided not to move out. "We don't have bad feelings (towards the accused), but I plan to check if the ex-occupant has changed his address.

"We hope that things will blow over soon, so that we can have a stable environment for the family," he added.

The two accused are believed to be involved in other cases of loan shark harassment by fire reported in Hougang Street 51 and Sembawang Drive. If found guilty, they can be jailed for up to five years and fined between $5,000 and $50,000 under the Moneylenders Act. They could also face between three and six strokes of the cane.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2016, with the headline '2 teens accused of loan shark activity'. Print Edition | Subscribe