A loan shark syndicate run by Hong Kong couple and eight Filipino domestic helpers who facilitated loans worth HK$10 million to Filipino domestic helpers with interest rates of up to 120% a year has been busted by Hong Kong Police.
Investigations showed that from March to October of 2016, about 1,200 domestic helpers loaned money from the syndicate.
“The loan amount was between HK$4,000 and HK$15,000 each. The debtors were required to surrender their passports and employment contracts as security,” Superintendent Chan Hon-ming of the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said on Tuesday.
He said borrowers had to pay 10 per cent of the loan amount as monthly interest, with the annual interest rate reaching up to 120 per cent, which is well above the legal limit of 60 per cent.
Chan added that passports and employment contracts would be returned only when debtors could settle their loan by making a one-off payment. The syndicate, he said, could pocket as much as HK$12 million in profit through such illegal loans.
Police already identified the syndicate in January and launched a probe to identify its ringleaders and cohorts. The Hong Kong couple, aged 49 and 50, recruited their own helper as well as other Filipino domestic helpers to look for borrowers and expand the business.
After a two-month probe, officers from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau swooped into action and arrested the couple and eight Filipino women aged from 34 to 58, including the couple’s helper, in a series of raids across the city on Sunday and Monday, according to South China Morning Post.
Operatives confiscated HK$106,000 and 242 passports and several employment contracts, bank documents, debit notes and bank receipts. Superintendent Chan said it is possible that more arrests will be made as investigations continue to progress.
Under the Money Lenders Ordinance, lending money above the annual interest rate of 60 per cent carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail and a HK$5 million fine.