PETALING JAYA: Those in financial difficulties are better off stealing than borrowing from loan sharks (Ah Long), Islamic consumers association Persatuan Pengguna Islam Malaysia (PPIM) said today.

This was not encouragement to steal, said PPIM chief activist Nadzim Johan, but merely to show that these illegal moneylenders must be avoided at all costs.

Nadzim said it was better to steal than to borrow from loan sharks because failure to repay them had serious consequences on the lives and safety of the borrowers and their families.

“We hope consumers will not be involved with Ah Long, because it will have lasting consequences. Find another way. Stealing is possible; borrowing from the banks can be hard, and there is no other institution willing to help.

“What else can you do when your electricity is cut, your car is to be repossessed and you want to feed your children?

“Stealing is the last resort. Borrow from your family members if you have no choice, or steal. It’s better than borrowing from the Ah Long,” Nadzim told FMT.

Nadzim was commenting on a statement from civil activist Peter Tan in the Oriental Daily that estimated over 35% of Malaysians had turned to loan sharks at the year’s end due to the high cost of education and to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Nadzim said in the past five years, PPIM had seen more than 12,000 borrowers failing to settle their debts with loan sharks.

“In our five years’ of work to resolve cases of those who have turned to Ah Long, over 12,000 or 30% of borrowers failed to pay them back.

“This year alone, there were 3,000 borrowers, with 600 failing to pay back. Even those who could found it difficult to repay the full amount and some had outstanding debts,” he said.

Over 70% of the borrowers were Malays, from all classes, he said.

“They do not borrow much, only RM1,000. But because they do not pay it back, the interest increases the amount owed up to 10 times in no time.

“Many of them are civil servants, including military and police officers,” Nadzim said.