SINGAPORE - A debt collector who was also a loanshark runner was sentenced to four years and three months in jail and ordered to be given 15 strokes of the cane on Friday (Sept 18) for offences under the Moneylenders Act (MLA) and others.
Weng Jiajun, who was working for debt-collection company Double Ace Associates at the time of the offences,was also fined the maximum $5,000 for using threatening words and behaviour to harass the wife of a Korean restaurant owner and patrons at the restaurant.
He had gone there with two others on March 8 last year to ask for payment of an alleged debt from the owner of the restaurant and to harass the staff if his request was refused.
The 32-year-old repeat offender, who faced 19 charges, had pleaded guilty to eight charges with the rest taken into consideration in sentencing.
The court heard that Weng, who owed $2,000 to a loanshark called Lucas, began working for Lucas in late December last year by harassing debtors. Lucas promised to deduct $150 from Weng's debt for each debtor he harassed. Lucas also threatened to burn hell notes at Weng's parents' house if he did not agree to help.
For about a month before his arrest on Jan 29 this year, Weng went around HDB estates locking the grill gates of debtors' units with bicycle locks, splashing paint, writing graffiti on walls and leaving notes behind.
While working for Double Ace, he and his colleague trespassed into a flat in Pandan Gardens in June last year to threaten a debtor's 66-year-old mother.
They had gone there to collect an alleged debt of about $28,000 on behalf of Lee's Motor Trading.
One of Double Ace's debt recovery tactics involved literally forcing debtors to pay.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Caleb Tan argued that a stiff sentence was warranted in this case. He said Weng and his colleagues from Double Ace operated in groups and caused public disquiet through their tactics which included shouting at debtors, putting up banners, chasing persons nearby away and resorting to physical violence at times.
"It must be highlighted that the accused is a persistent and habitual offender who has committed a total of 29 offences under the MLA in his lifetime, that these offences are ones which must be discouraged due to the pressing public concerns of safety and security, and the fact that multiple victims (both borrowers and innocent parties) were plunged into a state of fear due to the accused's actions,'' he said.
The maximum punishment for an enhanced moneylending harassment charge is nine years' jail, a $60,000 fine and 10 strokes of the cane.