Police track down large illegal online loan shark

Police from the Crime Suppression Division raided an illegal loan service in Nonthaburi province and arrested 30 gang members. But the Chinese boss remains free. (Photo provided)

NONTHABURI: Thirty members of an illegal online lending network operated by a Chinese national were arrested during a raid on three apartment buildings in a housing estate in Muang district.

Police from the Crime Suppression Division raided the three townhouses in the Pailin Park housing estate on Soi Ratthanathibet 28 in Tambon Bang Krasor on Wednesday.

They were acting on information that the three four-story buildings served as offices for a usurious loan network. It provided loans at unusually high interest rates through the “Chang Phueak, Chang Mue Archeep Ngernkoo Deetheesuk” mobile phone app (Chang Phueak, Professional Lender and Best Loans).

Seeing police, at least 50 people sitting in front of computers got up and fled, arresting officers said. Thirty of them were subsequently captured.

The arrest team seized 130 computers and documents detailing the names of the borrowers from many rooms in the three buildings.

CSD commander Pol Maj Gen Suwat Saengnum, who led the operation, said the raid followed a complaint that loan sharks had rented the buildings to use as an office for illegal loan services.

The CSD opened an investigation and then presented evidence to the court, which issued a search warrant. (continued below)

Staff from an illegal online lending network were arrested sitting in front of computers when police raided the office on Wednesday. (Photo provided)

He said the investigation found that the gang used an online app to persuade customers to take out loans.

Most of the clients were Thais with financial problems. The gang charged unusually high interest rates and sent debt collectors to intimidate people who did not pay on time.

The gang had also sent messages to people close to slow-paying debtors.

Pol Maj Gen Suwat said the loan service has been operated by a Chinese national for several years. The gang continued to move their offices to avoid authorities. He had operated from premises in Chiang Rai, Phetchaburi and Chon Buri before moving to Nonthaburi two months ago.

Most of the employees who were arrested were tasked with contacting debtors by phone to request reimbursements. One employee had a list of more than 2,000 debtors, Major-General Pol Suwat said.

Those caught would be accused of breaking laws governing loan interest rates and financial institutions.

The CSD would coordinate with the Tech Crime Police to review data on seized computers. The investigation would be extended with the aim of arresting the real culprit of the loan sharking operation, he said.

A source said borrowers had to repay 40% of the principal amount of the loan immediately, but continued to pay interest on the full amount until it was repaid.