The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued its first Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO), barring illegal money lender Dharam Prakash Gopee (64) from operating a money lending scheme again.
SCPOs are civil orders to prevent serious crime, the breach of which is punishable by up to five years in jail and an unlimited fine.
Gopee was also sentenced to three and a half years jail for his crimes, and proceedings have now begun at Southwark Crown Court to confiscate his assets.
Mark Steward, Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said: “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.
During a period of four years, Gopee conducted a “a horrid pattern of exploitation,” loaning money to vulnerable consumers at high prices and securing the loans against their property.
He also sought to take possession of their property if they failed to pay up, the FCA explained.
“His own loan books showed that he issued approximately £1 million of new loans and took in at least £2 million in payments from old and new consumers, none of whom were aware that did not have a licence,” the watchdog explained.
Gopee, who was refused a consumer credit licence by the OFT, and was not authorised by the FCA either, still went ahead with his business operations.
He had already been banned from acting as a director in 2016 and he was also the subject of a restraint order obtained by the FCA in June 2015 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Judge HHJ Beddoe, who sentenced Gopee, noted that he 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.
Gopee also endeavoured to enforce agreements he knew were unenforceable but that debtors did not, the Judge explained, and continued to pressurise debtors with demands for payment, threatening court action that he knew could not be sustained.