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Loan shark victims saved from property repossession

Written by: Emma Lunn
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has obtained a High Court order to remove hundreds of HM Land Registry charges, notices and restrictions registered against consumers’ properties by an illegal money lender.

The order allows the regulator to remove about 625 charges against property registered in the names of Dharam Prakash Gopee’s former companies.

This action is the latest in several legal proceedings taken by the FCA against Gopee arising out of his illegal money lending activities.

Between 2012 and 2016, Gopee acted as an illegal lender despite being refused a consumer credit license by the Office for Fair Trading (OFT), and without authorisation from the FCA after 1 April 2014.

He loaned money to vulnerable consumers at high rates, securing the loans against their property. He then sought to take possession of consumers’ homes if they failed to pay.

Over the four-year period, his own loan books showed that he issued about £1m of new loans and took in at least £2m in payments from consumers, none of whom were aware that he did not have the required consumer credit license.

The High Court order benefits hundreds of Gopee’s victims by removing entries registered against their properties by Gopee’s illegal activities.

The charges, notices and restrictions are registered in the names of: Barons Finance Ltd, Euro Business Finance PLC, Ghana Commercial Investments Ltd, Reddy Corporation Ltd, Barons Finance 1 Ltd, Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd, Barons Bridging Finance 1 Ltd, Pangold Estate Ltd, Moneylink Finance Ltd, Speedy Bridging Finance Ltd, Agni Estates Ltd and Pangold Investments Ltd. All these firms were formerly under the control of Gopee but are now in liquidation.

The order is the latest in a series of actions against Gopee. The FCA obtained a restraint order against him under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in June 2015. It then brought two sets of proceedings against Gopee for contempt of court in relation to repeated breaches of that restraint order.

In April 2016, having denied various breaches of the restraint order, Gopee was found to be in contempt and sent to prison 18 months. But he was released early by the court in September 2016 having promised to comply with the order. However, he went on to commit various additional breaches. Further proceedings were brought against him, and he was sent to prison again, this time for 15 months, in October 2017.

Following the FCA’s investigation, in February 2018 Gopee was convicted and sentenced to three and half years’ imprisonment for offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services & Markets Act, 2000.

The trial judge HHJ Beddoe noted that Gopee was aware of the FCA’s concerns, but ignored them, deciding instead to “…deliberately flout the law” ignoring the fact that he had lost his consumer credit licence, and tried to enforce agreements he knew were unenforceable but that debtors did not.

The FCA then secured a confiscation order for more than £5m against Gopee. He was also ordered to pay almost £230,000 in compensation to consumers.

Mark Steward, executive director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “Unauthorised money-lending is a criminal offence and causes serious harm, often to vulnerable communities. Mr Gopee’s offending caused substantial harm to a large number of vulnerable consumers. The order obtained today will ensure Mr Gopee’s hold over properties owned by his victims is relinquished, by removing charges, notices and restrictions that he obtained in carrying out his illegal activities and which he continued to hold.”

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