203 people under probe for suspected involvement in unlicensed moneylending

Investigations against all 203 suspects, who are aged between 16 and 71, are ongoing. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - More than 200 people aged between 16 and 71 are under probe for their suspected involvement in unlicensed moneylending activities, the police said on Sunday (Oct 31).

This was after officers from the Criminal Investigation Department and the seven police land divisions conducted simultaneous raids around the island in a two-week blitz from Oct 18 to last Friday.

According to preliminary investigations, 48 of the 203 suspects are believed to be loanshark runners who had helped to carry out automated teller machine (ATM) transfers.

Another 11 suspects are believed to have harassed debtors at their homes.

The remaining 144 suspects are believed to have opened bank accounts and provided their ATM cards, personal identification numbers and/or Internet banking tokens to unlicensed moneylenders to facilitate their business, said the police.

Investigations against all 203 suspects are ongoing.

When a person's bank account, ATM card or Internet banking token is used to facilitate unlicensed moneylending, that person is presumed to have assisted in carrying on the business of unlicensed moneylending, the police said.

First-time offenders found guilty of carrying on, or assisting in, unlicensed moneylending can be jailed for up to four years, fined between $30,000 and $300,000, and given up to six strokes of the cane.

Those found guilty of committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender can be jailed for up to five years, fined between $5,000 and $50,000, and given three to six strokes of the cane.

The police also warned members of the public not to reply or respond to loan sharks who are increasingly using text messaging or online platforms to send unsolicited loan advertisements.

The police said the public should instead report these messages as spam.

They added: "The police will continue to take tough enforcement action against those involved in unlicensed moneylending businesses, regardless of their roles, and ensure that they face the full brunt of the law.

"This will include taking action against those who open or give away their bank accounts to aid unlicensed moneylenders."

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