Proof must be furnished to update new addresses

Those who apply to update their addresses on their identity cards will be required to furnish proof that they are indeed living at the addresses stated.

The move is to protect innocent victims from being harassed by loansharks.

Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Associate Professor Ho Peng Kee announced this in Parliament on Thursday when responding to concerns raised by MPs over illegal moneylending activities.

He acknowledged that some borrowers furnish outdated or false home addresses to avoid harassment, leading to innocent households being harassed.

Last year, about half of the harassment cases reported involved innocent victims of loansharks.

Noting that illegal moneylending syndicates have come up with new modes of operations, Prof Ho said the authorities are exploring ways to tackle the organised nature of loansharking squarely.

They will study the proposal made by MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Christopher De Souza to make borrowing from loansharks an offence.

Prof Ho cautioned that while borrowers are part of the problem, there is also a need to consider the wide-ranging social circumstances behind these actions and establish different approaches to fit the circumstances.

He explained: “We have to differentiate. I think he suggests an approach where the Public Prosecutor is given the discretion. Indeed, he has the discretion, but he will exercise it consciously and carefully. Well, we will study this issue and include in our study the profiles of borrowers and the habits so as to strike a balance.”

Six loansharking syndicates were smashed in 2007, resulting in the arrest of 37 syndicate members.

Prof Ho said the syndicates were believed to have had a pool of 2,000 debtors and had given out loans amounting to a total of more than S$1 million.

In all, 392 persons were arrested in 2007, compared to 294 in 2006. In a landmark case, a loanshark’s assets were even confiscated. – CNA/so

Source : Channel NewsAsia – 28 Feb 2008

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