Taxi driver who provided interest-based loans to co-workers jailed, fined

·Senior Reporter
FILE PHOTO: A Singapore dollar note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A Singapore dollar note is seen in this illustration photo May 31, 2017. REUTERS/Thomas White/Illustration/File Photo

Through word of mouth, a taxi driver ran a sideline moneylending business where he charged fellow taxi drivers an interest of 10 to 20 per cent.

Tan Meng Thai, 55, would require the loans to be repaid weekly.

On Thursday (27 September), Tan, who used the alias Leslie Tan for his business, was jailed 18 months and fined $90,000 after he pleaded guilty to three breaches of the Moneylenders Act. Two counts of a similar nature were taken into consideration for his sentencing. Tan, who worked as a Mercedes Benz taxi driver for Comfort Delgro for 17 years, is no longer a taxi driver.

The court heard that after a borrower contacted Tan for a loan, Tan would outline the terms of repayment. Tan would charge an interest of between 10 and 20 per cent on the borrowed sum and require the amount to be repaid weekly. Both parties would agree on the loan terms verbally.

Tan would then transfer the loan amount to the borrower electronically and confirm via mobile text. Repayments would also be made electronically. After receiving the repayments, Tan would send a confirmation text to the borrower.

Between 2015 and 2016, Tan lent a total of $6,000 to various taxi drivers. His offences came to light after he threatened one of his borrowers.

Tan Swee Fei, 65, had borrowed $1,000 from Tan after as he needed cash to pay off house expenses. Swee Fei was unable to work as his taxi had broken down.

When he approached a friend for help, his friend referred him to Tan. Tan agreed to help and quoted Swee Fei the terms of repaying $200 weekly for six weeks, including a 20 per cent interest on the principal sum.

Tan issued the loan on 5 April 2016. However, after Swee Fei paid Tan more than $2,000, Tan told him he still owed $1,500. Swee Fei had difficulty repaying the loan by the 17 September 2016 deadline.

Tan then called Swee Fei and angrily demanded that the loan be repaid. Fearing for his safety, Swee Fei lodged a police report on 24 September 2016. Tan was arrested five days later.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Houston Johannus asked for 18 months and a fine.

Tan’s lawyer T M Sinnadurai said that Tan was remorseful and contrite for his actions.

“He merely lent the money to his friends as a form of personal loans to tide over their tight finances when they approached him. He did not offer nor force his friends to take up a loan with him and did not even portray himself as a moneylender,” said Sinnadurai.

The lawyer added that Tan was unaware his actions would be regarded as a form of unlicensed moneylending.

For unlicensed moneylending, Tan could have been jailed up to four years and fined between $30,000 and $300,000.

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