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Authorities across the nation handled 125 cases of loan-sharking in September, the National Police Agency said Thursday.

Some 61,000 people were found to have fallen prey to shady lending practices during the month.

The NPA designated September as a special month for targeting shady moneylenders in tandem with a new money-lending law that came partly into force Sept. 1. The new law tightens rules on the trade with stiffer penalties on unlicensed lenders and outfits that charge illegal rates.

The Diet enacted the new money-lending law in July following a sharp increase in complaints about lenders charging exorbitant interest and using shady tactics to recover loans.

The NPA said that both the number of illegal lending cases in September and the number of victims exceeded half of last year’s record-breaking totals.

Damages from the illegal lending cases in September came to 7.22 billion yen.

The NPA said authorities took action against 233 individuals during the month for involvement in shady lending practices. About 70 of them had links with organized crime.

Police applied provisions of the new law in three cases, the NPA said.

The new law raised the maximum fine for unregistered moneylenders to 10 million yen from 3 million yen. The maximum prison term was raised to five years from three years.

The maximum penalty for moneylenders with corporate status is 100 million yen under the new law.

It frees borrowers from the obligation to pay interest to lenders who charge rates above the legal limit of 109.9 percent per year.

The law subjects unregistered lenders to penalties for distributing loan ads or directly approaching potential borrowers.

It allows authorities to reject the registration of lenders whose executives have links to organized crime groups.

Acting under the powers of the new law, police in Osaka Prefecture arrested three unregistered moneylenders for allegedly leaving advertising pamphlets on bicycles parked near train stations and shopping arcades.

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