Hong Kong Police has announced Wednesday a hotline for the public to call when reporting tipoffs and information about loan shark syndicates preying on Filipino domestic helpers.
A police spokesman said informants may call 6348-1240 to report cases.
Earlier, Hong Kong Police estimates that people who take advantage of Filipino domestic helpers by lending them money with extortionate interest rates have profited at least HK$2 million.
Chan Hon-ming, superintendent of Organized Crime and Triad Bureau of Hong Kong Police Force, said the syndicate gave loans to more than 1,200 borrowers between March and October 2016. All the borrowers were Filipino domestic workers.
“These loans, ranged from $4,000 to $15,000, were given out at a monthly interest rate of 10 percent and the borrowers all surrendered their passports and contracts for collaterals,” Chan said.
“Over this short period of eight months, the syndicate had already given out a total of $10 million in cash and the estimated minimum return the syndicate earned from these loans amounted to $2 million.”
Eight Filipino women and a local couple, the alleged financiers of the operation, were arrested.
“Our investigation revealed a local couple was in control and operating this syndicate by funding the loans. They used their own Filipino domestic helper as assistant to run the loan shark scheme and outreach to other Filipino domestic helpers for recruiting runners and borrowers in order to expand their ‘loan shark business’.
“These assistants and runners were responsible to give out the loans and collect debts whereas they would surrender the collaterals to the couple until redemption was arranged,” Chan said.
According to Chan, the police started its operations against the syndicate earlier this month. Arrests were made on March 12 after Philippine passports were passed on by a Filipina to the alleged masterminds.
Raids were also conducted across various premises “including a rented service office used by the syndicate and the residence of the syndicate members.”
The Filipina accomplices were arrested for “conspiracy to lend money at excessive interest rate” and “conspiracy to blackmail.”
Lending money at excessive interest rates carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fine of HK$5 million under the Hong Kong’s Money Lenders Ordinance.