'Harasser' jailed for torching front doors of loan shark targets

A debtor-turned-"harasser" worked for a loan shark to lock flats with a bicycle lock and set fire to the doors.

For every unit "harassed", the unlicensed moneylender promised to pay deliveryman Muhammad Jasni Mohd Mdet $300, which would be used to offset his debts.

The 26-year-old took up the offer - and went to work on 11 flats at various locations in three days last October. He put on a face mask to avoid detection and even resorted to crawling along the second-floor corridor of a block at Toa Payoh Lorong 1 to avoid a CCTV camera.

Still, he was arrested at 3am on Oct 15 after extensive follow-up investigations. It is not known how he was caught.

Yesterday, Jasni was sentenced to 3½ years' jail and 12 strokes of the cane after admitting to four counts of harassment on behalf of the loan shark known as "Patrick". He could have been jailed for up to five years, fined up to $50,000 and given up to six strokes of the cane.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Wee Hao said Jasni had been involved in gambling and clubbing since age 21. He borrowed more than $9,000 from licensed moneylenders to finance his lifestyle.

He also bought several electronic items on instalment plans and chalked up fines of more than $3,000 for parking offences.

Due to his outstanding loan repayments and parking fines, he borrowed $300 each from "Patrick" and another loan shark known as "Jack".

In early October last year, after taking up the loans, he managed to make only the first repayment and then defaulted on his loans.

"Patrick" offered to offset his loans in exchange for ATM cards but Jasni could not open bank accounts as he owed money to the banks. So "Patrick" offered him a job as a "harasser", which entailed going to targeted homes, locking the gates of the units with bicycle locks and setting fire to them.

After he had bought bicycle locks and a ketchup bottle to fill with petrol, he worked on HDB flats in Sims Drive, Jalan Bukit Merah, Holland Drive and Toa Payoh. He took pictures of the fires and sent them to "Patrick".

The court heard that some occupants were innocent as they did not take any loans from unlicensed moneylenders.

Elena Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 27, 2016, with the headline ''Harasser' jailed for torching front doors of loan shark targets'. Print Edition | Subscribe