LOAN sharks in Ipoh are growing bolder by the day and banners to advertise their services can be seen all over.
Perak Barisan Nasional Public Service and Complaints Centre Chief Mohd Rawi Abdullah said, even if the authorities diligently take down the banners they will be up again the next day.
Mohd Rawi said he fails to understand why the police and the Ipoh City Council are unable to take firm action against the loan sharks.
“Their handphone numbers are all provided, and it would not be difficult to pretend to be a customers to obtain evidence and charge them in court.
“My service team recently went undercover to purchase mobile phone SIM cards using the MyKad belonging to another person. In some places SIM cards will be sold to you even without producing an identification card,” he said.
“So it is not surprising that many loan sharks are using such tactics to obtain various mobile numbers for their illegal activities,” he told a press conference at his service centre on Tuesday.
Mohd Rawi said some of the phone numbers used are “VIP numbers”, meaning genuine people registered the number and it should not be difficult to trace them.
He said the the illegal advertising put up by money lenders is an eyesore, especially now with Visit Perak Year, and with the state being promoted as a must-visit destination by travel guide Lonely Planet.
Mohd Rawi said the council is quick to take down any advertising banners by other companies or organisations if they are put up without a permit, or if they fail to remove them within a stipulated time.
“But in the case of money lenders, banners are being put up in every nook and cranny, and merely taking them down daily is not a solution.
“The mayor should take proactive measure by setting a zero illegal banner target as a key performance indicator, and also set up a taskforce,” he added.
Mohd Rawi said he receives daily complaints from the public about the banners being put up in residential areas, on shutters of yet to open shop lots, as well on trees.
He said the number of people harassed by loan sharks after falling behind in their payments is also on the rise.
“If the money lenders fail to get to the borrower, they then start harassing the borrowers’ family members too.
“I personally remove about 20 such banners near the service centre in a day, and the very next day the banners are up again,” he added.
He said the menace is not something new, and that previous complaints to the council have fallen on deaf ears.
Asked about the issue, Ipoh Mayor Datuk Zamri Man said the council’s enforcement teams go on rounds daily to take down any illegal advertising put up by loan sharks.
He said last year, the enforcement teams removed a total of 54,042 banners put up by loan sharks.
“In January this year, a total of 8,074 banners were brought down, while last month 5,099 banners were removed,” he added.
Zamri said, under its by-laws, permits must be obtained from the council to put up advertisements.
“If there are no permits, the council will take action by pulling down the advertisements immediately.
“If the council is able to identify the parties or individuals involved in putting up the banners, a fine of RM250 will be issued,” he added.
He said the council’s Enforcement and License Department had long ago set up an advertisement unit with 10 personnel tasked to bring down banners without permits, expired ads, wrong usage of language, and banners that obstruct the view of road users.
Meanwhile, Perak Police Commercial Crime Chief Superintendent Lee Ewe Kiang said the force is constantly monitoring the activities of loan sharks.
“We are also working together with the city council to take down their banners and buntings.
“We worked together on three occasions last year and we’ll continue doing so this year,” he said.
Speaking about using the the phone numbers provided on the buntings or banners, Supt Lee said many of the numbers were unrelated to loan sharks.
“We have called the numbers before, but most of them belonged to drug addicts, foreign workers and other unidentified people.We also found that most of the numbers are not registered through proper procedures,” he said.
Supt Lee said the police take a stern view of matters pertaining to illegal loan shark activities.
He said the police received some 194 complaints related to loan sharks last year.
“Since the start of the year, we have received 30 reports and 10 arrests have been made. We will be taking action against four targets soon,” he added.