The Regional Crime Wing of NTN conducted a two-day (12-5 December) intelligence-led operation codenamed "Suppression of Evil" and successfully smashed a triad-operated loan shark syndicate and a telephone money lending centre in Tsuen Wan. According to the police, the syndicate used the "Cold Call" sales call to borrow money from the victim, and the victim only needed to provide simple information, and the victim could borrow money without meeting or signing any loan documents, but the interest rate was high and there were harsh terms, and if the interest was paid late, a fine of $6,1000 would be imposed for one minute.
During the operation, the police seized 85,370 yuan in cash, and more than 22.5 million Porsche sports cars, watches, handbags, etc., which were suspected to be the proceeds of crime, and arrested <> people on suspicion of "lending money at excessively high interest rates", "unlicensed money lending", "money laundering", "criminal damage" and "criminal intimidation", including <> masterminds and key members.
Police seized a large number of work phones during the operation. (Photo by Cai Zhengbang)
Presenting the facts of the case, Chief Inspector Tai Yuk-lun of the Crime Wing of NTN Region said that in the first to third quarters of 2023, there was an upward trend in the number of collection-related crimes in NTN Region, among which criminal cases included criminal intimidation and criminal damage, with the most common methods being drenching red oil and using telephone messages to intimidate victims or their family members. See this. The 20st Team of the Regional Crime Unit of NTN conducted a detailed analysis of the cases and found that most of the cases involved illegal money lending activities commonly known as "phone numbers", usually the victims will receive a "cold call" asking if they need to borrow money, and the victims only need to provide their identity cards and proof of residential address to the money lending syndicate to borrow money, but the handling fee and interest for borrowing money are very expensive, the interest is calculated on a weekly basis, about 5000% of the loan amount, for example, if you borrow $1000,2950, you have to repay $<>,<> a week, and the annual interest rate is more than <>,<>%.
A fine of $1000,<> will be imposed for one minute of late interest payment
In one case, the victim was a father who was unemployed due to the epidemic and borrowed money from an illegal money lender with a loan amount of $5000,3700, but the actual amount received was only $1300,800, of which $1000,<> became a handling fee, and he had to repay $<> in interest every week until all the principal was repaid. The loan also comes with very harsh terms, such as a fine of $<>,<> for one minute of late interest payment, and eventually the victim is unable to repay, and is subject to debt collection and red oil.
Senior Inspector Lee Ka-wing of the Regional Crime Wing of New Territories North said that the Police, starting in April 2023, conducted targeted in-depth investigation and intelligence analysis, and successfully targeted an illegal money lending syndicate operated by a triad and its illegal money lending centre located about 4 feet in Tsuen Wan Industrial Building. The Police described the syndicate as having a careful division of labour and employing a large number of manpower to conduct "cold calls" in the call centres to attract people in urgent need of cash flow through the use of approval-free and fast-track approvals. When the borrower intends to borrow money, the group members will continue to contact them through messaging software to understand the borrower's family background, and then ask the borrower to provide proof of identity and residential address. When the core members of the syndicate believe that they are sure of collecting the debt, they will arrange for the gang to deposit the loan into the borrower's account. The whole process is simple and convenient without the need to meet with anyone or sign any loan documents.
If the borrower is late in repayment, an action team will be dispatched to collect the amount
If the borrower is late in repayment or fails to repay the loan, the Group will dispatch an action team to force the borrower and his family to repay the loan by means of drenching red oil, intimidating them by phone calls, etc. According to the Police, according to the results of the investigation, members of the operation team generally received a reward of $500 to $1000,<> for each cash collection or red oil operation.
Lee Ka-wing also pointed out that the illegal money lending syndicate will also manipulate puppet accounts to collect repayment from borrowers, and the core members will use the money to buy valuable items such as luxury cars, watches, handbags, etc. in a short period of time, and can also sell the goods for their own use, in an attempt to launder the black money as a profit for the group. The investigation revealed that the telephone numbers and collection accounts used by the syndicate were registered as puppet persons, which made the investigation more difficult for the Police, but reiterated that the Police had the determination and ability to detect the crime regardless of the form used by the syndicate to commit the crime.
Police conducted arrest operations in various districts in the New Territories and Kowloon on December 12 and 5, and successfully arrested 6 persons, including 22 men and nine women, aged between 19 and 9, Chinese nationals, including the syndicate's mastermind, core members, the operation team and puppet account holders, on suspicion of "money lending at exorbitant interest rates", "unlicensed money lending", "money laundering", "criminal damage" and "criminal intimidation". At the same time, the police successfully seized 22,48 yuan in cash and a large amount of property with a total value of more than 85.370 million yuan suspected to be the proceeds of crime, including Porsche sports cars, a number of luxury watches, a number of handbags, as well as a large number of work phones, bank cards and loan records.