The police arrested 71 men and women on Saturday for their alleged involvement in a loan-sharking gang controlled by a triad organisation, Judiciary Police (PJ) spokesman Leng Kam Lun said in a special press conference Monday.
Leng did not name the triad organisation that controlled the gang.
According to Leng, the 71 suspects are from Macau, Hong Kong, the mainland, and Thailand, comprising 60 males and 11 females, aged from 23 to 65 years.
One of the suspects, a 53-year-old mainlander surnamed Ma, was the alleged triad-linked kingpin of the gang, Leng said, adding that apart from Ma the gang also included nine other key members from Macau, Hong Kong and the mainland with triad backgrounds.
According to Leng, the gang’s usurious gambling loans exceeded HK$108 million in nearly three years, resulting in a profit of about HK$32 million. Leng said the gang started operating in Macau in March 2016.
Leng said the Judiciary Police received a tip-off in November 2016 that a gang headed by a mainlander was engaged in a string of criminal activities including casino loan-sharking, false imprisonment of defaulting gamblers, assault, and theft in Macau.
According to Leng, starting in 2016 the gang used a VIP room in a casino in Zape as a cover where it kept all IOUs and ill-gotten gains in safe boxes.
The gang also rented three offices in Nape, mainly for accounting and training purposes, but also for “disciplining” members who stole money from the gang or dared to “privately” lent money to gamblers.
According to the PJ spokesman, the gang’s “division of labour” was based on a clearly defined hierarchy. The gang strictly enforced internal rules and members violating the rules were fined or even subjected to corporal punishment such as beatings with a stick.
Some of the gang members were tasked with identifying cash-strapped gamblers eager to loan money. The gambling loans needed to be approved by Ma and were approved and overseen in line with the gang’s hierarchical structure.
The gang’s “accountants” and senior members were responsible for signing IOUs, photocopying the borrowers’ ID cards and carrying out other lending procedures, according to Leng.
When the gamblers gambled away all their loans and were unable to repay their debts, one of the key members, surnamed Cheang, would tell the gang’s “action team” to falsely imprison the defaulting debtor.
The “action team” consisted of four Thai enforcers who carried out the false imprisonments until the gamblers paid up, or escorted them to the mainland to pressure them into repaying their gambling debts.
On Saturday evening, PJ officers took action and swooped on 23 addresses.
According to Leng, they arrested most suspected members of the gang, including its leader and key members. The operation lasted 24 hours and involved 210 police officers.
The operation resulted in the confiscation of a large quantity of IOUs, other records, photocopies of documents, computers and a number of “tools” used to punish gang members, Leng said.
The suspects have been transferred to the Public Prosecution Office (MP) for further investigation and possible arraignments on a wide range of alleged crimes, such as usury, money laundering and leadership or membership of a criminal organisation. The suspects are facing lengthy prison terms.