NEWSWATCH: “As Russians Struggle to Pay Bills, Debt Collectors Mimic the Mob” – New York Times
They have stripped and sexually abused a woman, severely burned a toddler by firebombing a house and broken a woman’s pinkie as a warning. Gang members, bandits, mobsters? … These are debt collectors, a peculiarly Russian variety … flourishing amid the country’s economic turmoil. … With unpaid debts mushrooming, collection has turned into something of a blood sport reminiscent of the shocking gang violence of the 1990s, with threats and violence by debt collectors spreading across the sprawling Russian hinterland largely unrestrained by public authorities. * * * In 2015, the amount of unpaid debt surged by almost 50 percent to $15 billion, or about 13 percent of all personal debt …. A borrower making no payments for three months is considered to be in default. … since March of last year, the number of Russians in that category has leapt to 7.5 million from six million ….