Citizens’ group files loan shark complaint

A citizens’ group fighting loan sharks filed criminal complaints Wednesday in Tokyo, Osaka and 17 other prefectures against more than 5,200 lenders, urging authorities to take action against increasingly unscrupulous collection methods.

This marks the third wave of criminal complaints filed by the group headed by lawyer Kenji Utsunomiya.

The National Council on Problems Related to Illegal Lenders filed 2,000 criminal complaints in September and another 3,100 complaints in December.

Utsunomiya said the group plans to file additional complaints against abusive lenders in three more prefectures starting Thursday.

Apart from Tokyo and Osaka, the group filed charges in Hokkaido, Aomori, Miyagi, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Ishikawa, Aichi, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hiroshima, Kagawa, Ehime, Fukuoka, Oita and Kumamoto.

According to Utsunomiya, there have been increasing complaints about the unscrupulous loan-collection methods of loan sharks.

Such abusive lenders, he said, not only harass borrowers with abusive language but some resort to intimidation, including sending telegrams to clients threatening to collect their loans by “all possible means.”

The government allows lenders to charge a maximum annual interest rate of 29.2 percent, but loan sharks typically charge much higher.

On Tuesday, the ruling coalition agreed to begin talks with opposition parties to clamp down on loan sharks, calling for tighter penalties on unregistered lenders and for charging interest rates above the legal limit.

According to a National Police Agency study, 122,000 people were victimized by loan sharks in 2002, the highest level on record. Police began such surveys in 1990.