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Crime Files: Loanshark Harassment

By: Edwin Lim (Photos: Singapore Police Force)

In this edition of Crime Files, we explore the tactics used by Unlicensed Moneylenders (UML) to harass their debtors. Read on to find out how officers of the Crime Strike Force (CSF) from various land divisions and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) worked together to bring the perpetrator to justice!


Hello Police?

In the early evening of 28 May 2019, the Police received a call for assistance. The caller reported that unlicensed moneylenders or “loansharks” had locked the gate to their apartment with a bicycle lock. Unfortunately, the caller did not catch sight of the culprit. The police officers who arrived at the scene discovered a bicycle lock coiled around the gate with a note attached to it. On the note, scrawled in bold black ink, was a threatening message that stated – “This is just a warning. Next will be your sister place, Fire & Lock! Give you one day to contact …”.


Working Together to Join The Dots

Officers from the CID’s Unlicensed Moneylending Strike Force (UMSF) sprang into action and commenced investigations into the incident. From their investigations, the officers discovered that a spate of UML harassment cases were reported island-wide around the period when the first report was received.


Crime Files Loanshark Harassment

Images from CID showing the damage done to victims' homes.


Preliminary investigations revealed that the modus operandi of the harassment was similar. The harasser would coil a bicycle lock around the victim’s gate and leave a note with threatening messages behind. The CID officers analysed the writing on the notes and the brand of bicycle locks used, which suggested that the perpetrator was likely to be the same person. UMSF also received numerous reports of ignition keyholes on motorcycles being vandalised with an unknown substance, which prevented the owners from using their vehicles. Similar notes were also found on the motorcycles.

Suspecting that it could be the work of a serial harasser, the CID officers tapped on the CSF investigation network in an attempt to hone in on the suspect. Information on the case was broadcasted to CSF officers at the various land divisions. The breakthrough came when officers from Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) CSF informed the CID officers that a male suspect wearing a food delivery company attire, was spotted by police cameras around the same period as when the cases of harassment were reported.


The Big Reveal

With the information on hand, the CID officers approached the food delivery company to source for more possible leads on the suspect. The officers’ efforts paid off when they positively identified the 35-year-old male suspect.

The CID officers proceeded to plan a joint operation with the CSF officers to ambush and apprehend the suspect at his residence. On 31 May 2019, when he was spotted returning home, the officers moved in swiftly and detained him. UML harassment paraphernalia was found and seized in his possession.

During the interview, the suspect admitted to the investigators that he was behind the island-wide harassment acts. He told investigators that he had approached unlicensed moneylenders sometime in early 2018 as he needed cash for his daily expenses and his wedding expenditure. Unable to make the repayments on time, he then sought other UMLs for new loans to repay his existing loans. By the time of his arrest, the suspect’s debts had snowballed to about $30,000 with debts from more than 10 unlicensed moneylenders.

Sometime in May 2019, he was coerced by the UMLs into carrying out harassment acts against other debtors. He was paid for each of the harassment acts committed, and he used most of the money to try and clear his debts. Apart from locking up gates at debtors’ residences, he was also coerced into vandalising motorcycles by using super glue to seal the ignition holes of the vehicles. Investigations revealed that some of the owners of the vandalised motorcycles had actually not taken any loans from UMLs.


The Charges

The suspect faced a total of close to 20 charges of loanshark harassment committed between 25 May 2019 and 28 May 2019. He was also charged with providing two of his bank accounts to an unlicensed moneylender to carry out unlicensed money lending activities.

On 20 February 2020, the suspect, Clifford Lim Mao Tian was found guilty of all charges in Court and was sentenced to 26 months’ imprisonment, nine strokes of the cane and a fine of $30,000.

Officers from CID and CSF from the various land divisions had worked closely together to conduct extensive investigations to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator and successfully brought the perpetrator to justice, all within four days of the first reported crime!

 


PUBLIC AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT
SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE
11 January 2022 @ 5:00 PM
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