Lanzhou lenders responsible for 89 suicides, CCTV says

Notorious Chinese loan sharking operation resulted in the deaths of 89 people and victimized hundreds of thousands more before being arrested by police in 2019, a documentary aired on state television revealed Saturday.

According to China Central Television, loan sharks operating out of Lanzhou City in northwestern Gansu Province attacked more than 390,000 people before local police intervened. Among them, 89 committed suicide after being heavily in debt.

“Every day, every day, every day, every day paying off (debt). I can’t take it anymore, ”said a victim featured in the documentary in a video sent to her parents. “Daddy, mummy, if there is another life, I’ll work like a horse to pay you back.” I just want to get rid of it ASAP.

In March 2019, Lanzhou police arrested 253 suspects, including leader Wang Tao, and shut down more than 1,300 mobile apps and websites allegedly involved in illegal loans. The criminal gang offered loans totaling 6.2 billion yuan ($ 945 million) to borrowers, making a profit of more than 2.8 billion yuan, according to the CCTV documentary.

Amid tighter restrictions on obtaining credit cards and bank loans, many Chinese students have turned to unofficial lenders who set up businesses and lure unsuspecting customers with easy-to-access loans. However, many young clients have been exploited through scams, some lenders even requiring nude photos female students as collateral.

Unscrupulous loans have also resulted in dozens of suicides by people who become unable to repay their debts, as well as deadly attacks against debt collectors.

“Most Internet loans are small scale. Borrowers – mostly students and people from low-income groups – take out loans for urgent consumption or subsistence needs, thinking they can pay them back on time, only to find they can’t. Due to the high interest rates and other reasons, they end up getting more and more into debt, ”Jin Hanming, an attorney with the Guangdong Guangqiang law firm specializing in extortion cases, told Sixth. .

In recent years, Jin said, there has been a strict supervision and authorization process on online lending platforms, and illegal debt collectors who are caught harassing people with violence or threats. . face up to three years in prison. In 2018, China launched a nationwide campaign to crack down on organized crime, including predatory lending networks. The following year, authorities declared that collecting debts through harassment or threats would constitute “gentle violence. “

Last year, Wang, the leader of the loan shark gang, was sentenced to life imprisonment, while 18 of his associates were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 20 years, according to the documentary. from CCTV. Court documents show that they were guilty of operating illegal businesses using shell companies, as well as inflating interest rates by up to 5,200%, making it virtually impossible for borrowers to repay their debts.

Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: rudall30 / Vectorstock / People Visual)

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