Illegal moneylending on rise amid pandemic, policing committee told

‘Concern is that those who feel vulnerable ... will fall at feet of those people charging exorbitant interest rates’

Fianna Fáil Cllr Liam Reilly, a regional treasurer with Saint Vincent de Paul, said there are a number of cases of people who “have hit on hard times” and “an increase in people being set upon by people who see them as vulnerable”. Illustration: iStock

Fianna Fáil Cllr Liam Reilly, a regional treasurer with Saint Vincent de Paul, said there are a number of cases of people who “have hit on hard times” and “an increase in people being set upon by people who see them as vulnerable”. Illustration: iStock

 

A policing committee in Co Louth has been told of an increase in illegal moneylending during the pandemic.

Fianna Fáil Cllr Liam Reilly, who is also a regional treasurer with Saint Vincent de Paul, said there are a number of cases of people who “have hit on hard times” and “an increase in people being set upon by people who see them as vulnerable”.

Noting that the charity detected this trend, he said the moneylenders “go round and are offering money at high interest rates”, and this could happen when people have drug debts and could include council tenants.

He was speaking at a Joint Policing Committee meeting where a senior garda said he wanted to know the identity of illegal moneylenders “operating under the guise of violence and intimidation”.

Garda Chief Supt Christy Mangan, who has overseen a number of significant investigations including the Drogheda criminal feud, said gardaí can “proactively” target the assets of illegal money lenders.

Preying on emotions

The Chief Superintendent said “the same as the drug dealers, they have no place in our society if they are preying on people’s emotions and vulnerabilities.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Reilly said he believed the pandemic has contributed to the increase and he has heard of interest rates of up to 70 per cent being charged.

“The concern is that those who feel vulnerable and who may not wish to contact us or any other agency will fall at the feet of those people who are charging exorbitant interest rates.”

The intimidation of people in debt takes the form of “people coming to the house late at night, intimidating/threatening members of the family, that kind of behaviour”.

A spokesperson for St Vincent de Paul nationally said: “There are an estimated 330,000 customers of legal moneylenders in Ireland but no statistics on illegal moneylenders. Many illegal moneylenders are from the communities where they live and can be aware of the families that are vulnerable.”