Police arrest suspect in Toh Guan arson case

Police and the suspected arsonist at the scene of his alleged crime in Toh Guan Road yesterday. The man is said to have been involved in setting fire to two flats located above a client of a loanshark.
Police and the suspected arsonist at the scene of his alleged crime in Toh Guan Road yesterday. The man is said to have been involved in setting fire to two flats located above a client of a loanshark.PHOTO: LIANHE WANBAO

A SUSPECTED loanshark runner who is believed to have resorted to arson to harass and intimidate debtors on at least five occasions has been arrested.

Last Saturday, the 31-year-old man was allegedly involved in setting fire to two Toh Guan Road flats located above a client of a loansharking organisation.

The incident occurred in the middle of the night at Block 272, with the two families sleeping inside even as the fire was being set outside their flats.

The police were alerted just past midnight.

Neighbours had earlier told reporters that the occupants of the two flats woke up only after Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) officers knocked on their doors.

An SCDF spokesman said the fire was extinguished by the time they arrived.

Other residents said they believed the debtor's residence was left untouched as it had closed- circuit television cameras installed outside, prompting the suspect to set the fire outside the other units.

The suspect's identity, not yet revealed by the police, was eventually established with the aid of police cameras mounted in the vicinity of the fire.

He was arrested on Monday in Toa Payoh. Cans of paint, bicycle chain locks and marker pens were seized.

He was taken back to the crime scene yesterday.

Preliminary investigations link the suspect to more than 10 cases of loanshark harassment. At least five cases involved arson.

Under the Moneylenders Act (Revised Edition 2010), first-time offenders found guilty of acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment could face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to $50,000, and between three and six strokes of the cane.

hpeishan@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2015, with the headline 'Police arrest suspect in Toh Guan arson case'. Print Edition | Subscribe