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Gang members caught in Loan shark sting

Eight members of a loan shark gang run by a Chinese national have been arrested during a raid in Samut Sakhon province.

The eight suspects, all Thai nationals, were apprehended on charges of illegal money-lending during the raid on a commercial building in tambon Mahachai of Muang district by a team of immigration police, Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang said during a media briefing on Wednesday.

Seized from the building were 35 computer notebooks, 30 mobile phones, books detailing names of customers and other documents.

The raid followed complaints that a gang had offered money-lending services through the application Yoo Card at interest rates higher than the legal limit, said Pol Lt Gen Sompong.

Immigration police began gathering evidence and later sought approval from the Samut Sakhon Provincial Court to search the three-storey commercial building.

The arresting team found the first-floor of the building was decorated like a coffee shop in what police believed might be an attempt to conceal illegal activities.

On the second and third floors, there were numerous rooms and the eight suspects were found collecting debts via mobile phones. 

All suspects were taken to Muang police station in Samut Sakhon province.

During the interrogation, the suspects told police they were tasked with collecting debts from customers via the Uwallet, Ant Loan, Yoo Card, and Bee Bath applications.

Each app offered loans of 2,000 to 5,000 baht with service fees of 39% and interest charged at 0.05% a day. Under the loan conditions, borrowers had to repay loans with seven days.

A young woman, one of the suspects, explained that someone wanting to borrow 2,000 baht would receive only 1,220 baht. When the debt was due in seven days, the borrower would have to pay 2,007 baht in total. 

The money collected from borrowers was transferred to bank accounts belonging to a Chinese national, she said. She and the other suspects were each paid 15,000 baht a month.

The investigation found that more than 15,000 people had fallen victim to the illegal app-based money-lending operation, which had more than 10 million baht in circulation. 

Immigration police were hunting down the gang leader.

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Immigration Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Sompong Chingduang, centre, and senior immigration officers announce the arrest of eight members of a loan-sharking gang operated by a Chinese national during a raid in Samut Sakhon province. (Capture from a clip via the Immigration Bureau Facebook page)

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