Eight Filipino helpers, HK couple busted for loan sharking

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Ten people – a Hong Kong couple and eight Filipino domestic helpers – have been arrested in connection with a loan shark syndicate that loaned money to Filipino helpers at an ultra-high interest rate.

Police believe the Hong Kong couple, aged 49 and 50, were the masterminds of the syndicate, which became active at the beginning of last year. 

They are alleged to have hired at least eight Filipino domestic helpers as assistants and runners, who helped lure at least 1,200 Filipino workers into borrowing money between March and October last year. 

The victims had borrowed amounts ranging from HK$4,000 HK$15,000, and were required to pay a monthly interest of 10 percent, or 120 percent per annum – double of the legal limit.

Superintendent Chan Hon-ming from the Organised Crime and Triad Bureau said the victims were made to surrender their passports and employment contracts as collaterals, and could only retrieve them after they made a one-off repayment in full.

"Over this short period of eight months, the syndicate had already given out a total of HK$10 million loan in cash, and the estimated minimum return the syndicate earned amounted to HK$12 million a year," he said. 

The couple and the eight Filipino workers were arrested on suspicion of lending money at an excessive interest rate and conspiracy to blackmail. 

Officials do not rule out further arrests, saying there may be other Filipinos working for the couple. But superintendent Chan said there was no intelligence to suggest there are other loan shark syndicates that target foreign domestic helpers.

Police have notified the Philippine Consulate regarding the case, and officers there will help re-issue new passports to the victims. -RTHK