Hundreds of Vietnamese police officers this week raided the Ho Chi Minh City offices of F88 Investment JSC, the country’s biggest pawn shop operator, following public complaints about “administrative violations”, the Ministry of Public Security said.
The ministry said some of F88’s 830 shops had been found overcharging clients with extra fees and online newspaper VnExpress reported the company had used “extortion” methods in debt collection.
“The Ministry of Public Security and police forces at provincial levels have recently broken up several organised crime rings of debt collectors,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that hundreds of thousands of people had been threatened to repay their debts.
F88, which according to media reports was planning to launch an initial public offering with a market capitalisation target of $1 billion, did not immediately comment on the search.
Among its shareholders is Vietnam-focused private equity fund, Mekong Capital. F88 announced last week it had raised $50 million of fresh funding from Mekong Capital and Vietnam-Oman Investment Fund.
Mekong Capital said it had been informed by F88 that its operations were following Mekong’s procedures and regulations, and that it would take strict disciplinary measures in the event of a violation.
“Currently, F88 is actively coordinating and providing information with the authorities to investigate and clarify the case,” Mekong said in a statement, adding that it had not been informed of any irregularities by the authorities.
- Reporting by Khanh Vu, Francesco Guarascio and Phuong Nguyen; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, of Reuters.