Chiayi, March 12 (CNA) The National Immigration Agency (NIA) cracked down on a loan shark ring that targeted Indonesian migrant workers and forced them to pay up to 152% interest on amounts they borrowed, the agency said on Saturday.

The NIA’s Chiayi County Brigade recently searched four locations in Taichung and Changhua with local police and found 342 passports, loan receipts, money accounts and counters, and more than NT$7 million. ($246,303) in cash, deputy brigade chief Lai Shu said. -yi (賴淑怡).

A total of 22 people suspected of involvement in the loan shark ring, including five prime suspects, were also called in for questioning, and when two of the five failed to show up, they were arrested, the NIA said. in a separate press release.

All 22 were later released after questioning, but the case was forwarded to the Taichung District Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation to determine whether the main suspects should be charged with violating criminal and banking laws. , the NIA said.

The investigation began after an Indonesian migrant worker informed the NIA of the loan shark ring late last year.

The worker said he borrowed money from the ring to help with an emergency in his hometown and was asked to hand over his passport, sign a promissory note and agree high interest rates, the NIA said.

The investigation eventually revealed that the network was charging the workers an annual interest rate of 121-152%.

Lai told CNA that the network was run by a Taiwanese man named Yang (楊) and a Chinese Indonesian named Huang (黃), suspected of posting online advertisements targeting Indonesian migrant workers.

Many workers borrowed money from the ring because they needed money for emergencies and had no other legal channels through which they could access the funds, said Lai, who felt that there were hundreds of victims in Taiwan.

Borrowers who were unable to repay their loans and interest on time had their photos and loan details posted on social media, and members of the network even showed up at the residence of the worker’s employer. to force the worker to repay the money, according to the NIA.

An Indonesian caregiver in New Taipei, whose name has been withheld for her safety, told CNA that a loan agency repeatedly called her even after she had repaid a loan to harass her and threaten to tell her employer that she still owed them money.

She informed her employer, and he told her to tell the loan agency that he would call the police if she called. After following her employer’s instructions, the loan agency stopped calling, she said.