Police investigating passport loans

Eighteen months after the Caymanian Compass reported the practice occurring, local police have revealed that they are now investigating another incident of “passport loaning.”

In a statement released Wednesday, Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officers indicated they were investigating a suspect who had loaned money to individuals at a high interest rate and held onto their passports as a security for the loan.

“When they defaulted on the loans, the suspect refused to return their passports,” the statement from police read. “A number of persons have complained to the RCIPS, who are assisting the detectives with their investigation. However, the detectives believe that there may be more victims involved in the business.”

In November 2012, the Cayman Islands Immigration Department said it was aware of at least one case on Grand Cayman where a foreign passport was held as collateral for a loan given by a pawnshop. Police said Wednesday that this was not the same case officers were now investigating.

It is against the law in Cayman to transfer ownership of a passport to anyone.

“A passport cannot become someone else’s property,” Assistant Chief Immigration Officer Jeremy Scott said at the time. “At no time can there be a transfer in ownership or a default in ownership.”

Immigration officials said the situation they were aware of did not involve any attempts to alter the passport or use it for some other purpose, which would be illegal. However, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Gary Wong said most countries consider passports property of their respective governments, which cannot be traded or even given away.

In both cases, authorities declined to identify the businesses involved in the passport “loan.”

Police said there are certain instances where a passport may be held for a brief period of time, such as a hotel requiring a guest to surrender a passport as a form of security during a stay.

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