SINGAPORE - There has been a recent spike in loan-shark harassment cases involving fire, with at least four cases reported last week, police said.
The Straits Times understands that this was the highest number of such cases reported in a week in the past month.
One suspect, a 20-year-old Malaysian man, was taken by police investigators back to the scene in Jurong West on Monday morning (Aug 13).
The man had allegedly set fire to a Housing Board flat as well as splashed paint on a neighbouring unit last Friday.
He is believed to have been involved in at least six cases of loan-shark harassment islandwide, with at least three of them involving fire.
The cases were carried out at residential units in Jurong West and Hougang, among other locations.
Dressed in a red polo T-shirt and dark blue shorts, with restraints on his arms and legs, the man was led to the two HDB flats in Jurong West flanked by officers.
He was charged last Saturday for unlicensed moneylending harassment by setting fire.
If found guilty, he could be jailed up to five years, fined up to $50,000, and receive up to six strokes of the cane.
In a separate case last Wednesday, a 19-year-old man was arrested for setting fire to the door of a unit in Block 401 Jurong West Street 42.
A 51-year-old man who stays above the unit suffered burns on both his hands when he tried to put out the fire.
Member of Parliament Ang Wei Neng said that alternate accommodation has been arranged for the affected family, who is unable to return to the flat.
Superintendent Han Teck Kwong, who heads the Unlicensed Moneylending Strikeforce, said that the police do not tolerate such brazen acts that cause damage and endanger lives of innocent victims.
"(The police) will spare no effort to hunt down the offenders to ensure that they face the full brunt of the law," he said.
Increasingly, loan sharks have also turned to sending unsolicited loan advertisements via text messages or online platforms to target victims.
The police urged the public not to respond to them and to report the number as spam.
Supt Han added that the community has an important role to play to keep the neighbourhood safe from loan sharks.
The public is reminded to stay vigilant and alert the police if they see any suspicious persons or loan-shark harassment activities, he said.