Loan sharks further bleeds expats already exhausted by pandemic | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Loan sharks further bleeds expats already exhausted by pandemic

TDT | Manama

The Daily Tribune –

In 2020 November, Sridhar, an Indian expatriate, borrowed BD600 from a fellow national in exchange for undersigned blank government stamp papers and blank cheques.

Eleven months from then, he lost his job and on the planned day of his travel home, he would come to know that the debt had swelled to BD2,500.

To avoid a court case and subsequent travel ban, he surrendered half of his indemnity amount along with his wife’s jewellery before the fellow national.

While the pandemic season has been misery to the majority, it has been beneficial to a group of wicked individuals who loan money, targeting families with low incomes or those in difficult times.

“Loan sharks have been flourishing during the time of the pandemic,” said Jamal Nadvi Iringal, a social activist based in the Kingdom, who, along with a group of social workers, has been leading the battle against loan sharks under the umbrella ‘People’s Collective Against Loan Sharks’.

Jamal said many expatriate families have fallen into the trap after failing to catch up with their expenses here and back home. “Four categories of people fall prey to loan sharks.

The first is expatriate families in the Kingdom, who are unable to pay their rent, school fees of children and also fail to meet their daily expenses.

“The second are those who engage in a luxurious lifestyle, get addicted to alcohol and other immoral activities, eventually treading in the path of self-destruction.

The third is small level traders including those at the Bahrain Central Market, who receive money regularly from loan sharks.

“And the fourth is ex-pat labourers, from whom ATM cards are taken as guarantees for loans. Their salaries are drawn by these illegal moneylenders, who only return the remaining amount after deducting exorbitant interest.”

Jamal said these loan sharks appear to be very friendly and helpful when they hand over the money but turn into the exact opposite mode when it’s time to collect interest.

The victims of loan sharks include almost all Asian expatriate communities in the Kingdom, be it Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan or the Philippines.

“Victims normally submit signed blank cheques and blank stamp papers with these illegal moneylenders, who would write bigger amounts in the cheque leaf, fabricate debt contract on the stamp paper before filing a court case if the victim fails to pay interest on time,” Jamal explained, adding that some of the loan sharks are even running illegal parallel money remittance services.

Jamal said the collective he is leading has had a success rate of nearly 90 per cent about finding a solution to take the victims out of trouble.

“We request the victims of loan sharks to approach us.

People seeking loans should approach established banks and financial services, and not these loan sharks.

Never give a signed blank cheque leaf or blank stamp paper to anyone,” he said.

Jamal also praised the efforts of the Bahrain Police in tackling loan sharks.

“As per Bahrain's law, no one can seize the passport from anyone.

Victims can contact Bahrain Police to get their passports back from these loan sharks,” he said.

Urging extreme caution, Jamal also added that many of the expatriate suicides in the Kingdom were linked to the evil schemes of loan sharks.