Awareness campaign highlights dangers posed by paramilitary money lenders
A new public awareness campaign to highlight the dangers posed by paramilitary money lenders has been launched by Justice Minister Naomi Long.
A series of television and radio adverts, along with outdoor advertising, will form part of the “End the Harm” campaign, which gets under way this week.
It focuses on how paramilitary gangs use illegal money lending as a means to control and exploit vulnerable people.
Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “Illegal money lenders don’t care about their victims, they are only interested in exerting control and exploiting vulnerable people for their own gain.”
Speaking at the campaign launch today, the Alliance party leader said: “Illegal money lending is an under-reported crime, but one that is commonplace across communities in Northern Ireland and is a practice which is closely linked to paramilitary gangs.
“It is a crime that targets vulnerable people when they are at their most desperate.
“We know from research and evidence that this is yet another example of how paramilitaries and those linked to them try to coerce and control people and communities for their own gain.”
Ms Long urged those who fall victim to money lenders to come forward and seek support.
She said: “The coercion that comes with illegal money lending means that it is common for victims of this crime to feel that they have no-one to turn to. But support and help is available.
“Advice NI, the Independent Advice Network, runs a free and confidential, debt service offering practical advice and support to people dealing with debt of any description.
“Furthermore, I would encourage all victims of criminal behaviour like this to contact the police.”
She added: “People have had to live with paramilitary control, violence, threats and exploitation for far too long.
“Life is hard enough without this. Families, communities and businesses are all desperate to return to normal after Covid-19 and the last thing they need is the negative influence of paramilitary gangs seeking to exert control, often for financial gain.”