A LOAN shark's runner caused $88,000 worth of damage after torching a car near a debtor's home - even though he knew it did not belong to his target.
Low Chick Kim - who was in debt to an illegal lender himself - had no idea who owned the white car, but picked it because the burn marks would be extra visible.
The fire then spread to two cars parked nearby. Low left five notes with the name and address of his target - and another debtor who lived elsewhere - scattered around the carpark in an attempt to put pressure on them.
Yesterday, the prosecution called for a stiff sentence for Low, 30, who was convicted last week of nine counts of harassment and one of helping an unlicensed moneylender.
The cafe worker was paid $500 to torch cars in Choa Chu Kang North 5 by a loan shark known as Jack, the court heard.
Low poured about half a tin of lighter fluid on the white car's bonnet and windscreen before setting it alight on Oct 13.
Police tracked him down after the fingerprints of his alleged accomplice Chua Shau Hwee, 35, were found on one of the notes left in the carpark.
The court heard Low was in financial trouble after borrowing $3,000 from another loan shark earlier this year and failing to keep up his repayments.
He briefly went into hiding at a friend's home in Kuala Lumpur. When he returned, he was threatened by the lender, known as Cai Shen. Cai Shen, who is still at large, then offered him a job harassing debtors by splashing paint, scrawling graffiti on walls and putting bicycle locks on their gates.
From mid-July, Low carried out the harassment jobs in the small hours.
In October, Jack, who claimed to be working with Cai Shen, offered Low $50 for each flat he targeted. Low rejected the offer, but later agreed to harass debtors because he needed the money to repay Cai Shen.
Yesterday, Deputy Public Prosecutor Gay Hui Yi cited a number of aggravating factors. She said Low had targeted 14 flats and four vehicles in various locations from Ang Mo Kio to Pasir Ris between Aug 4 and Oct 21.
'The accused appears to be a recalcitrant who had no qualms committing harassment acts,' she said.
She added that Low's offences were pre-meditated and calculated to intimidate or threaten. The total cost of the damage to private and public property amounted to at least $91,658.
DPP Gay asked for Low to be jailed for 18 to 24 months and caned for each harassment charge involving fire. For the remaining harassment charges, she called for him to receive 12 to 15 months in jail and at least three strokes.
Low, who has been remanded in custody, will be sentenced on Jan 7. His alleged accomplice Chua, a property agent, has been charged but not yet dealt with.
Last night, a family friend of one of the targets told of the shame the debtor's elderly mother feels over the attack.
The friend, who asked not to be named, said: 'She goes everywhere with her head down now. She felt so sorry when she heard from the police that the cars were burnt... she felt bad about her son being a nuisance to everyone.'
When The Straits Times visited the target's home yesterday, the fresh smell of paint indicated that the front door had recently been painted over. The friend said loan shark runners had splashed paint on it only last week, despite the family having placed two closed-circuit television cameras there.