Hlina: State Bodies Should Help People against Usury

Alojz Hlina builds a wall to block the entrance of a money-lending company in the centre of Bratislava in September 2015. (Photo: Facebook)

Bratislava, October 21 (TASR) – The Justice Ministry should advise customers of non-banking financial institutions on how they can defend themselves if they feel that they’ve been mistreated, non-parliamentary Christian Democrats (KDH) chairman Alojz Hlina said at a press conference on Friday.

Hlina was partly reacting to reports that a company called Pohotovost will leave the market soon. While still an independent MP, Hlina last year built a mini-wall to block the entrance to one of Pohotovost’s branches in Bratislava. He was accusing Pohotovost of extortionate money lending. Hlina is still being investigated by law enforcement authorities over the incident.

“It’s important to call the responsible bodies to help [people], in many cases also in saving their lives. There have been many suicides due to non-banking companies because people are desperate. So, it’s important to see the state bodies acting, including the Interior Ministry and the police,” said Hlina.

According to him, the central bank (NBS) has released a document making it clear that Pohotovost grossly violated the country’s laws.

“It’s necessary to take its licence away, while the police should also act. There’s been a law on the penal accountability of business entities in place since January 1, 2016 also dealing with the crime of usury. This also concerns this case,” said Hlina, adding that the state must regain its reputation after the scandal involving the non-banking firms BMG Invest and Horizont Slovakia more than a decade ago. These two companies, on the promise of unusually high interest-rate gains, collected people’s savings to the tune of €2 billion before suddenly announcing bankruptcy.

“Tens of thousands of people are suffering due to the usury of non-banking companies. Contracts they’ve signed after legislative changes were introduced are null and void in principle,” said Hlina, adding that the Justice Ministry has a duty to inform people of this fact.
Pohotovost earlier this week announced that it will cease providing loans in Slovakia as of December 23, as a series of recent legislative changes has forced it to curb its products.