Pattaya police smash high-tech Chinese loan-shark ring

Police officers check computers and other equipment for evidence to prosecute the illegal loan sharking racket.

Pattaya-area police arrested a Chinese national who employed dozens of Thais in a high-tech loan-sharking ring with interest rates of more than 2,000 percent a year.

Chonburi police deputy commander Pol. Col. Eakapop Intawiwat and Nongprue police chief Pol. Col. Chidecah Songhong led the April 30 raid on the Privilege Suites Hotel on Second Road where they found Wang Pei, 33 and 39 Thais on computers.

All the Thais claimed they were just office employees and that Wang was the loan shark. They earned only 10,000-12,000 baht a month. Everyone was jailed nonetheless.

Police said each Thai was given 100 telephone numbers to call a day and offer one-week loans of 2,000-10,000 baht at 5.7 percent a day or 2,090 percent a year.

Mr. Wang Pei (center) identified as the person in charge of the high-tech loan-sharking operations said he was hired by someone in China.

What set this Chinese gang apart, investigators said, was that everyone who applied for a loan had to install a mobile-phone app filled with malware that sent all contacts, email and other personal data back to the loan sharkers.

If, after seven days, the borrower didn’t repay, the gang would call bosses, friends, colleagues, relatives and others to harass and demand repayment. Those contacts also were solicited for loans.

Wang said he was hired by a Chinese man named Chen for about 48,000 baht a month. Chen, in China, paid for the setup of the office and all expenses, he said.

The Thai staff claimed they were just office employees and earned very little money, but were also arrested.

Investigators estimated the operation had turnover of 2 million to 3 million baht a day and netted 1,000 customers a day, with all money sent directly to China.

Wang – in Thailand on a tourist visa – was charged with working without a permit, operating an illegal loan business, charging illegal interest rates, collecting debts without a permit, and various emergency decree and disease-control laws.