Man accused of illegal money-lending after his firm bought phone from maid and leased it back to her

A 49-year-old man will be charged in court on Jan 22 for his suspected involvement in unlicensed moneylending and money laundering activities, said the police.

He was the sole proprietor of Xpress Leasing, a company in the Textile Centre at Jalan Sultan.

A Filipina maid with the nickname Felyn had obtained $760 from Xpress Leasing after selling her mobile phone to the firm and then leasing it back, reported The Straits Times in 2020.

"A staff told me the company is not a moneylender, but a leasing firm," said the 52-year-old maid.

"He said the price for my handphone was $1,000, but he would pay me $760. I would then have to rent my handphone at $300 a month for four months."

Felyn said she accepted the offer, as she needed money to pay for her daughter's university fees and living expenses.

Explaining how the scheme worked, an Xpress Leasing spokesperson told ST that if the company bought a mobile phone from a maid for $1,000, only $760 would be paid to her because $240 would be treated as the rental fee for the device for the first month.

The rental fee subsequently would be $50 a month.

The maid also has the option of getting her phone back by buying it for $1,000, which can be paid in instalments over four months.

"So she will pay $300 a month for four months and keep the handphone. If not, it would just be $50 a month for the rental of the handphone," said the spokesperson.

The police said between September and October 2020, they received at least 12 reports alleging that Xpress Leasing was issuing loans illegally under the pretext of buying and leasing preowned mobile phones and sending debt collectors to confront debtors who were falling behind in their loan repayments.

Investigations revealed that the man had allegedly carried on a moneylending business without a licence by issuing illegal loans on the premises of his company between June and October 2020.

In the course of investigations, five bank accounts connected to the man’s criminal activities were frozen and more than $700,000 were seized.

The man, who had previously been convicted for unlicensed moneylending offences before, will be charged in court with one count of carrying on a moneylending business without licence and three counts of acquiring property which represents the benefits from criminal conduct.

Under the Moneylenders’ Act, first-time offenders found to have contravened Section 5(1) shall be punished with imprisonment term of up to four years, a fine of not less than $30,000 and not more than $300,000, and caning of not more than six strokes.

Second-time offenders shall be punished with imprisonment term of up to seven years, a fine of not less than $30,000 and not more than $300,000, and caning of not more than 12 strokes.

Anyone found guilty of acquiring properties which represent the person’s benefits from criminal conduct shall be punished with imprisonment term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $500,000.