JOHOR BARU (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Illegal moneylenders now operate from luxury condominiums and high-end houses across Johor state as they offer loans to those desperate for fast cash.
Many of their targets are those working in Singapore, and the moneylenders charge interest rates of between 24 per cent and 60 per cent annually.
Those who are blacklisted by financial institutions also turn to these syndicates.
However, those who fail to pay up are usually threatened or harassed by members of these syndicates.
Police have arrested 21 people, including a woman, following a series of raids in the city over the past few days.
These raids have been dubbed the biggest arrest of loan sharks this year after three major syndicates were busted in the state.
The arrests were made during a major operation led by officers from Bukit Aman's Commercial Crimes Investigations Department together with their Johor counterparts.
Sources said the police units were divided into several teams and they carried out the raids simultaneously in a few places, including Iskandar Puteri, Seri Alam and Setia Indah.
"The suspects were nabbed based on more than a dozen police reports lodged by the victims in the state," the sources said, adding that the operations lasted several hours.
Police seized an array of items from the suspects, including dozens of cellphones, computers, vehicles, ATM cards, bank books and fliers as well as cash.
Police also seized several ledgers containing information on the "borrowers" and loan defaulters, the sources added.
This is the second major crackdown on loan sharks in Johor. In May, at least nine were arrested in a series of raids in the city.
It is learnt that Bukit Aman is coming down hard on loan sharks in the country and has launched a major nationwide blitz.
Several major loan syndicates have been busted in the country this year.
When contacted, Bukit Aman's Commercial Crimes deputy director (intelligence and operations) Senior Assistant Commissioner Willey Richard confirmed the arrest of the 21 suspects in Johor, adding that the suspects had been remanded for investigations.
"We will come down hard on loan sharks in the country, " SAC Willey said, urging the public to go to licensed financial institutions instead of borrowing from these illegal sources.
He added that those with information on illegal money-lending activities could contact the nearest police station.