SINGAPORE: A Singaporean man who operated an unlicensed moneylending business in Thailand that targeted debtors here was caught at Changi Airport on Feb 13, 2018, and charged two days later.
Lua Xiang Long was released on bail of S$30,000 and was supposed to return to the State Courts on March 20, 2018.
Instead, he boarded a fishing boat and left for Malaysia without his passport, before making his way back to Thailand.
But on April 24, 2023, Lua surrendered to the Thai authorities, as he felt lonely and missed his mother.
He was sent back to Singapore the next day.
On Nov 28, the 34-year-old was sentenced to two years and seven months’ jail after he pleaded guilty to offences including multiple charges under the Moneylenders Act.
He was also fined $60,000 and will have to spend an additional 12 weeks behind bars if he is unable to fork out the amount.
Lua joined the illegal moneylending business in Thailand after he got to know a man known as Elvis in Bangkok in February 2017. Elvis offered him a job as an assistant “Ah Long” or loan shark in his unlicensed moneylending business.
Lua accepted the offer and started working for Elvis the following month.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Delicia Tan said that Lua received a monthly basic salary of $1,000 and free lodging, as well as free meals and drinks at pubs.
He mainly assisted Elvis in calling and soliciting potential borrowers. Lua was also given a laptop with a database containing Singapore mobile numbers.
After calling the numbers, Lua, who was aware that he was working for a syndicate, was given a new list with more than 1,000 contact numbers.
If any of those contacted wished to borrow money, he would direct them to Elvis for a briefing on the loan conditions.
Around July 2017, Lua was promoted to be an “Ah Long”. The syndicate also handed him $30,000 as capital for his moneylending business. He continued to receive a monthly salary of $1,000.
After recouping the $30,000 capital in October 2017, he started receiving additional profits of 30 per cent from the syndicate.
As part of the loan conditions, debtors had to pay interest rates that generally ranged from 20 per cent to over 30 per cent of the principal amounts.
Payments for the interests had to be made on a weekly basis until the principal loan amounts were repaid. Failure to service the weekly repayments would lead to the outstanding amounts being doubled.
Once the borrowers agreed to the conditions, they would have to provide Lua with items including pictures of their identity cards and the contact numbers of their family members.
Upon approval of the loans, Lua would hand the borrowers’ bank account details to Elvis and the money would be transferred.
For borrowers who faced difficulties servicing their repayments and were difficult to handle, Lua would carry out acts including harassing their employers and family members via phone calls.
If the debtors still refused to pay up, Elvis would inform the other members of the syndicate, who would engage people to harass the borrowers’ families in Singapore.
On Feb 13, 2018, Lua returned to Singapore to celebrate Chinese New Year and was arrested at Changi Airport. At that time, he had about 30 borrowers in Singapore.
He was charged two days later. While out on bail, Lua met an unnamed man at the Republic of Singapore Yacht Club in March 2018, boarded a fishing boat and arrived in Malaysia without his passport.
He later travelled more than 10 hours via train towards northern Malaysia and met an unnamed person.
DPP Tan said: “The accused and that person rode a motorcycle through the immigration checkpoints of
Malaysia and Thailand with the accused as a pillion rider. They were not stopped at any of the checkpoints.”
Lua then took a 22-hour-long bus ride from Dannok in southern Thailand to Bangkok where he met his girlfriend.
The couple broke up in February 2023, and Lua decided to return to Singapore two months later.
He was represented by lawyer S. S. Dhillon, who pleaded for his client to be given two years and four months’ jail and a fine of $60,000.
The lawyer from Dhillon & Panoo law firm told the court that Lua was remorseful, and had committed the offences as he was facing financial difficulties at the time. - The Straits Times/ANN