Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong. Photo: Asia Times

Hong Kong police have arrested a 64-year-old man in Tsuen Wan, New Territories, on suspicion of running a loan-shark operation targeting domestic workers.

Acting on a tip and after a thorough investigation, officers from Tsuen Wan Police Station arrested the man in Shek Wai Kok Estate on Wednesday afternoon and confiscated three passports he had on him, news website HK01.com reported.

Another 856 passports and three books were confiscated in the man’s public housing apartment, police say.

It was understood that the retired man made loans only to domestic workers, mainly Filipinos and Indonesians, from January last year to this month, with each of them borrowing around HK$4,000 (US$510).

In that period, he allegedly doled out about HK$3 million in loans on which he charged annual interest as high as 125%, well above the legal limit of 60%. The man also required the debtors to surrender their passports as collateral.

An Indonesian domestic worker told Sing Tao Daily that she was short of funds but needed to send money back to Indonesia, thus she borrowed HK$4,000 from the man last February and planned to repay the loan in six installments.

She said the man did not require her to fill in any forms or to present any documents, unlike legal financial institutions. She only needed to surrender her passport and was told she would get it back once she cleared the debt.

She said she was afraid her employer would get to know that she was in debt, which might get her fired.

Leung Hing-ki, chairman of the Hong Kong TKI Association, a group that provides support to Indonesian domestic helpers, said many maids faced income shortfalls and would resort to personal loan financing instead of regulated institutions as the latter need guarantors.

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