Convicted illegal money lender sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment
Illegal money lender, Dharam Prakash Gopee, has been sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment by a Judge in Southwark Crown Court after guilty verdicts for offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
In addition to this custodial sentence, Gopee has been issued with a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO), which will severely restrict his ability to carry out this type of crime in the future. This is the first time the Financial Conduct Authority has sought such an order, which underlines the seriousness of his conduct.
Between 2012 and 2016, Gopee acted as an illegal lender despite being refused a consumer credit licence by the OFT, or securing any authorisation from the FCA. He loaned money to vulnerable consumers at high rates, securing the loans against their property, and then sought to take possession if they failed to pay. Over the four year period, his own loan books showed that he issued approximately £1m of new loans and took in at least £2m in payments from old and new consumers, none of whom were aware that did not have a licence.
The SCPO will begin on Gopee’s release from custody, and will last for five years. It includes conditions prohibiting him from conducting any business in the credit sphere, limits the number of bank facilities he is permitted to operate, and requires him to make disclosures of those banking facilities to the FCA. Breaching the terms of the order is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years' imprisonment.
In sentencing Gopee, trial judge HHJ Beddoe noted that Gopee was aware of the regulator's serious concerns, but ignored them, deciding instead to “… deliberately flout the law” ignoring the fact that he had lost his licence, and endeavouring to enforce agreements he knew were unenforceable but that debtors did not. He continued to pressurise debtors with demands for payment, threatening court action that he knew could not be sustained.
Commenting on the defendant’s activities as a whole, the judge said that Gopee’s business practices “… exploited the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of many, many people …” who were unaware that their trust in him was misplaced. He described the new scheme constructed by Gopee as involving one contrivance after another in an attempt to get around the law, showing “a horrid pattern of exploitation”.
FCA director of enforcement and market oversight Mark Steward said: “The court is sending a very clear message that deliberate and repeated offending will lead to long periods of imprisonment. Today’s decision also imposes the FCA’s first Serious Crime Prevention Order which will severely inhibit Gopee’s ability to reoffend and should protect consumers in the future. The FCA will continue to take whatever action is necessary to bring offenders to justice and protect consumers.”
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