Apparently spurred by the suicide of a bankrupt couple, both victims of an illegal moneylending racket, at Vellarada last week, the rural police raided the houses of at least 80 suspected loan sharks in the suburban areas of the district early on Sunday.
A.J. Thomaskutty, District Police Chief, Rural District, said the operation, code-named ‘Kubera-II,’ had resulted in the seizure of nearly Rs.2 lakh of unaccounted money and scores of documents illegally collected from debtors as collateral for high-interest loans extended to them.
The documents included signed blank cheques, signed but blank promissory notes, passports, bond papers, sale agreements for landed properties, original title deeds, and registration books of vehicles, including two-wheelers. The police also arrested nine persons on the charge of violating the Kerala Money Lenders Act and other relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code.
The operation was kept secret till the last minute to prevent any leak of information. Law enforcers were assigned their respective “targets” only an hour before the operation and ordered not to communicate over wireless or mobile phone during its duration.
Despite its secrecy, the police said they were not happy about the yield of the raids. In the wake of a similar operation early this year, loan sharks in the rural district seemed to have taken extra care to keep their transactions secret.
They now routinely used a set of front men, extended loans to those referred to them by other clients or their middlemen, and kept no account books at their houses to fox police and tax enforcers, Mr. Thomaskutty said. However, the raids would have a deterrent effect.
The police said they had information that a new set of illegal moneylenders, some of them with a bad police record, profited hugely by extending collateral-free “meter” loans, wherein interest is charged by the hour. They used force to ensure that their borrowers paid up. So far the racket has taken a heavy toll on urban society. It has fuelled crime, impoverished families, and driven many to commit suicide. Mr. Thomaskutty said families who felt under duress or victimised by the illegal moneylenders could present their grievance to him directly at Ph: 9497996985 or 0471-2300303.