33 months' jail, fine for illegal moneylender

A man who carried on an unlicensed moneylending business with another - charging a monthly interest rate of up to 28 per cent - was sentenced to 33 months' jail and fined $400,000 yesterday.

Low Buay Huat, 52, who faced a total of 38 charges, pleaded guilty to 10 charges under the Moneylenders Act, and one count of failing to submit to the Official Receiver a statement of affairs of HTR Technologies while he was a director of the company. Low is now a warehouse assistant.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jaime Pang said investigations showed that in early 2015, Low and Seah Han Leng, 45, were drinking at Orchard Towers when a friend, Mark, told them he knew many pimps and taxi drivers operating nearby who were in need of money. Mark asked if they were interested in issuing loans.

After some discussion, Low and Seah entered into a partnership to issue loans, each raising $10,000 as operating capital for the unlicensed moneylending business. They agreed on a 50-50 partnership.

They agreed to charge $10 daily interest or $70 weekly interest for a $1,000 loan until the debtor settled the principal sum. Mark introduced pimps and cabbies seeking loans to the pair, whovisited Orchard Towers every night to carry out their illegal activities.

Early last year, a friend called Wan invited them to invest in a construction business. They came to know contractors or subcontractors in need of money, and issued loans with a monthly interest rate of 28 per cent. The debtors had to make a weekly repayment.

DPP Pang said Low was actively running the illegal business from 2015 until his arrest on Jan 17 this year. At the time of his arrest, he had increased his capital contribution to $70,000, of which $30,000 was used for loans issued to pimps and cabbies at Orchard Towers and $40,000 to contractors.

The total amount of loans disbursed to 21 people was $177,500, with the monthly interest rate ranging from 20 per cent to 28 per cent.

Low's lawyer Ng Lip Chih successfully applied for his client to start his sentence on Jan 15.

Seah's case is pending.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2017, with the headline '33 months' jail, fine for illegal moneylender'. Print Edition | Subscribe