Macau might be best known for its casinos, but it has a dark side as well. Police have announced the arrests of 71 people who were allegedly running a loan shark operation, the Macau Post Daily reports.
The arrests were revealed in a February 21 police briefing. The accused were said to have loaned HKD108 million (US$13.8 million) since 2016, bringing in a modest profit of HKD32 million (US$4 million).
The alleged leader of the gang, a 53-year-old Chinese man named Ma, was caught in the arrests. Other leaders of the gang hailed from China as well, with some coming from Macau and Hong Kong, according to the report, while other members of the gang allegedly came from Thailand.
Rather than working out of a dark alley like some kind of shmucks, these guys were classy. Police revealed they were operating out of a VIP room in one of Macau’s casinos, keeping their documentation and profits all in one place.
The gang was apparently well disciplined as well, with clear tasks being assigned and offices designated for training purposes. Gang members who broke rules got a beating with a stick, authorities said. There’s no reporting for the moment that they harassed any of their borrowers.
In June 2018, Macau police made arrests of 113 loan sharks, who were accused of loaning out US$8.92 million, and allegedly would jail gamblers who had not paid their debts. That group operated out of apartment units. Considering this smaller group of 71 loaned out far more, the police have now shut down a far more efficient racket.
This will be juicy news for Ho lat Seng, potential new chief executive of Macau. The Judiciary Police warned in January that crimes ahead of the upcoming concession refreshments will give Macau reason to question some concessionaire refreshments. That fits in beautifully with Ho lat Seng’s reported ambitions to pivot to more Chinese-facing companies.
Two major loan shark operations shut down in less than a year will be seen as a victory for Macau police, but considering there appears to be a clear market for the activity, they will need to stay vigilant. Individual casino operators can’t do much to crack down on something criminals could do out of one-bedroom studio units. They may want to ensure they aren’t in their VIP rooms, though.