Rogue money lender Dharam Prakash Gopee has been sentenced to three and a half years in jail at Southward Crown Court today.
Yesterday he was found guilty of offences Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 for acting as an illegal “lender of last resort” between 2012 and 2016.
Without gaining a consumer credit licence from the Office of Fair Trading or authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority he loaned money to vulnerable consumers at high rates secured against their property, which he aggressively sought to take possession of if they failed to pay with the threat of court action.
Over four years he issued £1m of new loans and took in £2m in payments form old and new customers, none of whom knew he didn’t have a licence.
The judge, HHJ Beddoe, said Gopee was aware of the regulators serious concerns but ignored them, deciding instead to “deliberately flout the law”
He added that Gopee’s business practices “exploited the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of many, many people”; labelling his practices as “a horrid pattern of exploitation”.
The FCA has also issued Gopee with a Serious Crime Prevention Order, the first of its kind, which will last for five years from his release.
This will prohibit him from conducting any business in the credit sphere. It also limits the number of bank facilities he is permitted to operate, and requires him to make disclosures of those banking facilities to the FCA.
Breaking the order would be a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, 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 Mr 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.”
Gopee was already banned from acting as a company director, having been disqualified on 5 May 2016 for the maximum period of 15 years under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.