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New teams taking the fight to loan sharks

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Released 12 Sep 2008

New specialist teams set up by the Government to crackdown on loan sharks have hit the ground running.

Consumer Affairs Minister Gareth Thomas said:

"The new teams have more than 230 investigations underway into loan sharks. The total value of the loans being looked into is more than 3million. The investigations have started to lead to arrests, charges and penalties with more activity expected over the coming months.

"These teams are working around the clock to ensure that the credit crunch doesn't drive people into the murky world of illegal money lenders."

Already the new teams have successfully prosecuted four people:

* Brian Darwent, a 37 year old barber from Sheffield, received a 9 month prison sentence after ripping off schoolchildren and housewives. He charged 100 per cent interest on cash loans, keeping games consoles, bank cards and other valuables until debts were paid off.

* Scott Anthony, a 41 year old from Basildon, received a 9 month prison sentence, suspended for two years, for illegal money lending. He had been operating his business from his home for a number of years, charging half the amount borrowed as interest. Some loans reached an APR of 384%. Anthony was also ordered to carry out 80 hours community work.

* Michael Finn, aged 56, and Stephen Sutcliffe aged 42 from Leeds were sentenced to 200 and 180 hours of unpaid work respectively. Both men used to work for a legitimate home credit company but when they left following disagreements they began their own unlicensed business. The men poached clients from the old company and charged interest rates of more than 1,068 per cent APR. They often asked for the first repayment at the time the loan was given.

17 people have been charged with offences and are awaiting trial:

* A 26 year old male from Dagenham has been charged with illegal money lending and disguising criminal property. He is alleged to have lent 71,000 to 23 victims with interest rates of 100%. The case is due to be heard in Snaresbrook Crown Court on September 15, 2008.

* A 55 year old male shopkeeper from Gwent has been charged with illegally lending money to school children. He is alleged to have taken collateral in the form of mobile phones and jewellery. He is due to appear at Cardiff Magistrates Court on 6th October 2008.

* A female from Stockton has been charged and is on court bail awaiting committal to Crown Court for illegally lending over 20,000 over a 2 year period to around 40 victims and using threats of violence and intimidation to recover her repayments. She's also charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

The new teams are building on the huge success of pilot anti-loan shark teams in Birmingham and Glasgow. Since September 2004 these two teams have:

* shut down loan books worth more than 7million

* helped more than 6,000 victims

* seized and confiscated 260,000 in cash

* secured successful prosecutions which have resulted in sentences totalling over 33 years for illegal money lending and related criminal activity including assault, wounding, kidnapping, blackmail and possession of firearms

* In Scotland more than 30 individuals have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal

Government's multi-million pound investment means that there is now a specialist team in every region of England and in Wales and Scotland.

John Hutton announced funding for the new teams in September 2007. Most of the teams became operational towards the end of the year after completing recruitment and other logistical arrangements.

Note

1. The anti-loan shark teams funded by the Department for Business are staffed by specialist Trading Standards officers and work closely with the Police

2. There are now teams in:

* London - focused on Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets

* North East -focused on Newcastle and Tyneside

* East Midlands - focused on Nottingham, Leicester and Derby

* South West - focused on Bristol and Plymouth

* Wales - focused on Cardiff, Swansea and the Valleys

* The Birmingham pilot team has expanded into Yorkshire and Humberside (focusing on Sheffield and Leeds), the North West (focusing on Merseyside and Greater Manchester) the South East and East- focussing on (Peterborough, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, Portsmouth, Southampton and Hastings)

* The Glasgow pilot team covers the whole of Scotland

3. The Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform helps UK business succeed in an increasingly competitive world. It promotes business growth and a strong enterprise economy, leads the better regulation agenda and champions free and fair markets. It is the shareholder in a number of Government-owned assets and it works to secure, clean and competitively priced energy supplies.


About the Author

Crown Copyright. Material taken from the BERR- Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform replacing DTI - Department for Trade and Industry. Reproduced under the terms and conditions of the Click-Use Licence.


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2008-09-20 07:42:12 in Business Articles

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