Published: 20 November 2018
Mr Ang Wei Neng: To ask the Minister for Home Affairs for the past five years including the first eight months of this year (a) how many cases of arson relating to illegal money lending have been reported; (b) how many cases have been solved involving the arrest of the (i) culprits who set the fire and (ii) master mind behind the arson; and (c) whether the Ministry can consider increasing the punishment for crimes involving arson and illegal money lending.
1. From 2013 to 2017, about 170 cases of unlicensed moneylending (UML) harassment involving the use of fire were reported to the Police. For the first eight months of this year, about 13 cases were reported.
2. Overall, there is a steady decline in harassment involving the use of fire. There were about 20 cases in 2017, compared to about 50 in 2015.
3. The Police have solved about 80% of the cases from 2013 till the present. This year, the Police have solved all the nine cases reported between January and July 2018; investigations into the cases reported in August are ongoing. In 2016 and 2017, the Police crippled at least ten UML syndicates through the arrest of more than 70 persons.
4. The Member asked if MHA would consider increasing the punishment for crimes involving arson and illegal money lending. There are currently no plans to do so, as the penalties are adequate. Under the Moneylenders Act, offenders found guilty of acting on behalf of an unlicensed moneylender, committing or attempting to commit any acts of harassment, where there is property damage or hurt caused to another person, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, as well as caning of not less than six and not more than twelve strokes, and shall also be liable for a fine of between $5,000 and $50,000. Repeat offenders are liable for enhanced punishments.
5. In a recent case in November 2017, Police arrested a 29-year old man for committing a series of UML harassment, including setting fire to two debtors’ residence. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and ten strokes of the cane.
6. The Police regularly review their strategies to keep the UML situation under control. This includes stepping up enforcement efforts, enhancing public education and leveraging the community to fight the UML scourge together. Footage from Police cameras have also been used to solve UML related cases. Police will continue to take a tough approach to clamp down on all manner of UML activities.