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    As if just in time to illustrate why cracking down on loan sharks is a good idea, this story appeared in the Mainichi today:

    Two former employees of a loan shark have admitted during questioning that they intimidated a debtor, who later killed herself with two relatives, in a bid to force her to repay her debts, police said.

    Seven employees of the loan shark, including the two, extended a total of around 32,000 yen in loans to the woman who lived in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, between April and June 2003. They then threatened her into paying about 167,000 yen in interest, approximately 225 times the legal limit, police said.

    32,000 yen is around US $300; we’re not talking about a loan for big money here. Of course, you don’t need to know that to realize that 167,000 yen is over 500% interest–and that someone who needs to go to a loan shark for $300 at past retirement age is hardly likely to be able to cough up over $1000 within a few years from then.

    After obtaining the loans, the woman received phone calls from the loan sharks almost every day, saying, “You borrowed the money so repay it. Otherwise, I’ll kill you.” The victim recorded the threatening calls on tape.

    In June, the woman, her 61-year-old husband and her 81-year-old brother killed themselves by jumping in front of a train on the JR Kansai Line. She left a suicide note saying, “I’m scared by the phone calls every night.”

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