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In The Force Awakens, Han Solo's spaceship is entered by a gang of criminals, who demand their money back which Han borrowed from them.

However, Han doesn't have any money, he invested it all in acquiring those rathtars he is now on his way to deliver to King Prawn¹. So he doesn't have it now, but presumably he was going to pay them off after he got paid. And the criminals know it.
But then they go off into a tangent about how Han cheated on them by also borrowing some money from the Kanjiklub, which doesn't really make any sense. I mean, so what? Who cares if Han borrowed money from multiple parties? And as it turns out, they're not on bad terms with the Kanjiklub, they even hired the Kanjiclub themselves to have more men to beat Han up with.

So then they say, matter-of-factly,

"OK, we'll take the droid then", which they obviously knew about, and it turns out they were in league with the First Order all along.

So, my question is, were they really in it for the money?

Or were they simply hired by the First Order, with, presumably, promises of better payment?

¹ Yeah, I know, you can look the real name up if you want.

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were they really in it for the money? Or were they simply hired by the First Order, with, presumably, promises of better payment?

No, they most certainly were NOT hired by First Order, since the gangsters after-action report is how the First Order found out about BB-8 being with HAN in the first place (the gangsters, if you recall, were hunting for Han on his cargo ship, and only accidentally found the Falcon when Han captured it at just the right time):

In another part of the vessel, safely sealed off behind the blast doors that slammed shut immediately following the breach of hull integrity caused by the Falcon’s unorthodox departure, a battered and infuriated Bala-Tik took time out from bemoaning the loss of his men and equipment to activate a deep-space contact via the freighter’s still-functional communications system. Caught in the Falcon’s explosive departure, his own vessel was in no condition to pursue. Neither was that belonging to the Kanjiklub. But…others might be. If he couldn’t collect what Solo owed him, there remained the possibility of a reward for information.

Contact established, he spoke into the pickup. “My name is Bala-Tik. I am a Guavian trader. My personal history is available for general assessment by any who care to research it. My reputation is verifiable. I am letting it be known that the individual Han Solo is likely in possession of the droid that is the subject of a search by the First Order. And that it and Solo together with an unknown number of allies are presently aboard the vessel known as the Millennium Falcon: destination unknown. I hereby lay claim to any reward that has been established for information leading to recovery of said droid by the First Order.” (Foster's novelization)

Note the "IF he couldn’t collect what Solo owed him" - since this is narrator's voice inside his head, that was most likely his original true motive.

The WGA script is far more brief and doesn't offer any insight but confirms the above:

INT. CARGO SHIP - DAY
PUSH IN on a HANGAR DOOR where Bala-Tik arrives at the window, SEETHING. Makes a CALL:
BALA-TIK
Inform the First Order that Han Solo has the droid they want. And it's aboard the Millennium Falcon.

  • Hm, OK, but then why did they go after Solo before he could cash in on the cargo? Of course he didn't have the money yet! And why would Solo be "cheating" by also borrowing some money from the Kanjiklub? If they were for real, the whole dialogue doesn't make sense. – Mr Lister Jan 2 '16 at 17:31
  • @MrLister - that's a separate question, so I won't answer it fully here, but in short, they didn't trust him to either successfully compllete the mission, or to not slink off with the profits. They EXPLICITLY said he did so before. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 17:37
  • I didn't mean for that to be a separate question, sorry. That was my reason for asking all along, to reconcile their words with their actual motives. – Mr Lister Jan 2 '16 at 17:59
  • @MrLister - their actual motives are to recover money off of Han. What your comment asks is - IMHO - a different one: if they wanted to recover money off of Han, why show up instead of wait till he sells the things to King Lobster. Which is a great question in its own right, with a DIFFERENT set of quotes in a completely different answer. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 18:03
  • @MrLister - LOL so you get rep from upvotes on 2 questions :) I'm sure that the other one will be well recieved, they are both good questions – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 2 '16 at 18:39

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