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US Cancels Iraq Debt, Predatory Lenders Move In
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BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials privately expressed great concern over the speed with which high-interest/high-risk lenders have entered the Iraq marketplace. "Everyone in the U.S. knows about these guys," said one official, "They loan you 125% of your home's value, then either keep you in virtual slavery to their high interest rates, or simply take your home when you can't keep up the payments. They're sharks. And they've found a fresh lagoon of fat, pasty tourists to feed on." The United States government formally forgave $4.1 billion in Iraqi debt, opening up room in the nation's debt to income ratio for these creditors to operate.

"We provide beneficial services for those living outside the normal parameters of 'good credit'."
-- Martin Gotchuh, Vice-President, Beneficent Mortgage
"We provide beneficial services for those living outside the normal parameters of 'good credit'," explained Martin Gotchuh, Vice-President of Account Development for Beneficent Mortgage Company, a member of the Householder's Financial Group, "And of course that extra service requires extra fees, extra interest. Our loan default rate is much higher than that of standard lenders, requiring us to set our rates accordingly."

"Coincidentally, the rate that their complicated default-based algorithms produce tends to be as much as the law permits," said Harold Gleetch, a lawyer with Stop Unfair Lending Practices, "They are simply there to squeeze as much in the way of payments out of people as they can before the well runs dry and they're forced into bankruptcy. It makes me sick to think we're allowing these people to unleash their financial poison on another country."

While meager laws exist to protect U.S. citizens from predatory lenders, there is little to prevent these same companies from pillaging internationally. "Frankly, we tend to think in terms of our own backyard, not what's happening across the street or in the next town," explained Senator Albert Baker, "So we've drafted legislation to protect our own folks. The new Iraqi government will need to meet these Beneficent people at the border and explain their rules to them."

If that has happened, it hasn't stopped at least one Iraqi from enjoying the financial power that a second mortgage can bring. "I thought it would be nice to replace the broken windows in my shop, so I stopped in the new office to see if I could borrow 300 Euros," explained Kassim Maaer, a Baghdad shopkeeper, "But they helped even more. I walked out with 15,000 Euros, and my first payment isn't due for two months. It is a miracle from Allah himself." Maaer could not recall the terms of the loan, but he was assured by the loan officer that they were the very best terms available to him.
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