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Usurious loan sharks harass factories after workers default

By Le Tuyet   July 24, 2022 | 04:46 pm PT
Predatory loan sharks are harassing HCMC-based employers of workers who've defaulted on payments, threatening destructive action against their business as well as relatives.

For a while now, the hotline at logistics firm Long Rich Vietnam Co. Ltd has been ringing almost all day. The callers are loan sharks demanding that the company cooperates and "hands over" workers who have borrowed money from them.

The usurers threaten that if the company, which is based in Linh Trung 2 Export Processing Zone in HCMC's Thu Duc City, fails to cooperate, they will publicize harmful information about the company on social media or send gangbangers over to damage its factory.

The constant calling, starting early in the morning and going on until late in the night, makes it impossible for the company to receive calls from their customers or partners.

And this is not all. The loan sharks also call company officials, including union heads and those working in its administrative office on their cell phones, making the same demands and threats.

A man stops by a gate of a factory in Thu Duc City where advertisements of loan sharks are plastered all over the place, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

A man stops by a gate of a factory in Thu Duc City where advertisements of loan sharks are plastered all over the place, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Nguyen Thi Thuy Van, chairwoman of Long Rich's labor union, said almost 30 percent of the 5,000 or so workers that the factory has hired have borrowed money from loan sharks via mobile apps.

There are cases in which workers had borrowed just VND10 million but after just a few months, the loan and interest climbed to VND100 million, said Van.

After a while, when the workers were no longer able to service the usurious loans, they changed their phone numbers and tried every way they could hide from the loan sharks.

Van said that the loan sharks have already smeared the company by spreading photoshopped images of its senior staff on social media and accusing them of swindling.

Hurt your family 'one by one'

Bich Hien, an HR staff at footwear maker Pouyuen Vietnam Co. Ltd in HCMC’s Binh Tan District, said the factory has been receiving almost 70 calls from loan sharks per day, with some being made at 1-2 a.m., apart from dozens of emails defaming the company.

Hien said the loan sharks do not just have her mobile number, but also that of her husband, the names of her family members and the addresses of her children's schools.

They told her that if she does not cooperate and make the workers pay, her family will be hurt "one by one."

According to Pouyuen Vietnam's labor union, around 400-500 workers have borrowed from loan sharks and are unable to pay the money back. Many of them have changed their mobile numbers or even quit working at Pouyuen.

"The company's operations have been badly affected," said Hien.

Long Rich Vietnam and Pouyuen Vietnam have not been able to hire new employees because their recruitment hotlines have also been disrupted by the loan sharks.

Pham The Toan, HR director at Cholimex Food JSC at Vinh Loc Industrial Park in HCMC’s Binh Chanh District, said the factory needs 500 workers, but he does not dare to pick up his phone these days if it is a strange number because he's afraid it could be a loan shark calling.

Toan's photos have already been posted on social media with content slandering him for shielding "fraudulent" workers.

"There have been days when I could not make or receive any phone calls because of the loan sharks."

Workers at  Cholimex Food JSC at Vinh Loc Industrial Park in HCMC’s Binh Chanh District, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

Workers at Cholimex Food JSC at Vinh Loc Industrial Park in HCMC’s Binh Chanh District, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Le Tuyet

No protection

Despite being harassed and threatened, companies and their factories have not received any protection.

Kieu Ngoc Hoa, HR director of Samsung HCMC CE Complex Co. Ltd at the Saigon Hi-Tech Park in Thu Duc City, said police have said that it is difficult to track the loan sharks because they use unregistered SIM cards and fake social media accounts.

Tran Thi Dieu Thuy, chairwoman of HCMC’s Labor Confederation, said they were aware of the situation and have received many reports from factories.

The city has a Capital Aid Fund for Employment of the Poor (CEP), which offers loans at "very low" interest to workers.

However, the demand is "huge" and the CEP has very limited resources. So the workers go to loan sharks who can be found very easily and lend the money with quick and simple procedures, Hoa said.

Pieces of classified ads promoting a loan shark service are plastered under a sign to ban littering at a metro pier in Thu Duc City, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

Pieces of classified ads promoting a loan shark service are plastered under a sign to ban littering at a metro pier in Thu Duc City, June 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran

At a June meeting with workers nationwide that was broadcast live, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh requested the central bank to come up with measures that make available bank capital easily accessible to people in need towards preventing them from falling prey to loan sharks.

He also asked the Ministry of Public Security to act quickly against those who violate regulations and prevent consequences affecting the economy and workers.

It was said at the meeting that over the last three years, the ministry had handled more than 2,700 cases involving nearly 5,000 people and prosecuted nearly 2,000 cases with 4,000 defendants. Workers were the victims in more than 1,000 cases.

Senior Lieutenant General Luong Tam Quang, Deputy Public Security Minister, said loan sharks were committing very "sophisticated" crimes under the guise of businesses offering financial support services.

"There are cases in which the interest rate is 90-100 percent a month and even up to 700-1,000 percent a month; and loan sharks usually threaten, terrorize and appropriate assets when the borrowers fail to make payments on the due dates," he said.

 
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