JOHOR BAHRU: Police have cut off the long reach of an Ah Long (loan sharks) syndicate’s strong-arm tactics with the arrest of six suspects through several raids around Negeri Sembilan and Kuala Lumpur launched from June 28 until July 1.

Johor police chief CP M Kumar said the four-day operation involved 17 personnel from Johor CID and Batu Pahat CID.

“This (Ah Long) syndicate advertises jobs to enlist ‘enforcers’ on Facebook by paying them to wage the criminal mischief of openly intimidating borrowers and their families while keeping the head of the syndicate safe and out of sight.

He said all the hired hands arrested were between 35 and 51 years old and believed to have been paid wages to terrorise victims by splashing paint and committing arson on houses belonging to the loan takers.

“They are believed to have been active since April by getting paid RM400 to spray paint and RM700 to commit arson by hurling molotov cocktails on victims’ houses.

“These criminals for hire will then send in a video of the treacherous act executed to the head of the syndicate to receive their due wages,” he said in a press conference at the Johor police contingent headquarters (IPK) here today.

He said police also seized items such as six mobile phones, threatening notes (3), cans of paint (2), a bottle of thinner, a box of face masks, three cars as well as stationery and clothing.

According to him, a urine screening test found five of the six local suspects positive for methamphetamine and the six men are now remanded until July 14 under Section 117 (for more investigation to make an arrest) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

He said preliminary investigations found that the Ah Long syndicate was active in committing crimes in several states such as Johor, Pahang, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Perak.

“With these arrests (the six Ah Long hired hands), we successfully solved 24 cases involving contingents from Pahang, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Perak, which used the same modus operandi.

“The case is being investigated under Section 435 (mischief by fire) and Section 427 (for mischief) of the Penal Code in addition to Section 29B of the Money Lenders Act 1951 and Section 15(1)(a) of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952,” he said.

In the meantime, he said that for the period from January to May, 1,267 cases related to money-lending without a licence were reported and a total of 347 individuals arrested.