End of the road for ah long racket

Kuching District Police Chief ACP Ahsmon Bajah (centre) with ASP Mercel Ireneus Mustari and ASP Simon Renang showing the items seized during the recent Op Vulture. Photo: Ramidi Subari

KUCHING: Police have crippled a loan shark (ah long) syndicate which has been active for the past five years with the arrest of 14 of its members.

District police chief ACP Ahsmon Bajah said all the suspects, aged between 21 and 48, were nabbed in raids on six premises involving four houses, an apartment and a shop lot around Kuching, Kota Samarahan and Bau districts over the past two weeks.

“The suspects comprised four men who were leaders of the syndicate, two women who were account owners, another woman and a man who worked as clerk and customer seeker and six men who acted as customer seekers and debt collectors,” he told a press conference at Kuching district police headquarters today.

He said the syndicate, identified as Ah Lai, had been operating since 2016 and had about 500 customers with total loans amounting to RM1.1 million.

“The total collections from these loans are still under investigation. Once we have obtained the information, we will get in touch with other related agencies for further actions.

Pointing out the excellent bookkeeping skills and cunningness of the Ah Lai loan shark syndicate, Ahsmon said they concealed their operations by conducting transactions through stores located here and nearby districts.

“That’s the way they obscure their operations, they cover up all transaction records under existing furniture and electrical store companies,” he added.

He said the modus operandi of the syndicate was to promote unlicensed moneylending services through Facebook and placing cards on vehicles, hanging banners on lampposts and also on trees as well as approaching customers from their contacts.

Ahsmon said all the suspects were remanded under Section 117 of the Criminal Procedure Code and the court had allowed remand for up to 14 days while investigation papers had been referred to the deputy Public Prosecutor for further action.

“All the suspects are being investigated under Section 5 (2) of the Money Lenders Act 1951 and if convicted can be fined not less than RM250,000 and not more than RM1 million or imprisoned not more than five years or both,” he explained.