Today the FCA was successful in obtaining a High Court Order to remove around 625 charges, notices or restrictions registered in the name of illegal money lender, Dharam Prakash Gopee’s, former companies.
This application is the latest in several legal proceedings commenced by the FCA against Mr Gopee arising out of his illegal money lending activities.
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.'
Between 2012 and 2016, Mr Gopee acted as an illegal lender despite being refused a consumer credit license by the 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 4-year period, 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 he did not have the required consumer credit license.
Whilst the FCA was investigating Mr Gopee’s misconduct, the FCA obtained a restraint order against him under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in June 2015. The FCA then brought two sets of proceedings against Mr 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 - including failing to disclose assets, continuing to deal with assets, opening and using new accounts - he was found to be in contempt and imprisoned for a term of 18 months. 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 on this second occasion, having admitted the new breaches, he was imprisoned for a term of 15 months in October 2017.
Following the FCA’s investigation, Mr 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. When sentencing Mr Gopee on 9 February 2018, trial judge HHJ Beddoe noted that Mr Gopee was aware of the FCA’s serious concerns, but ignored them, deciding instead to '…deliberately flout the law' ignoring the fact that he had lost his consumer credit licence, and endeavoured 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.
The FCA then secured a confiscation order against Mr Gopee in the sum of £5,118,018.72. The effect of the order was to require Mr Gopee to disgorge the value of his criminal proceeds as an illegal money lender. Mr Gopee was also ordered to pay almost £230,000 in compensation to consumers. He also continues to be subject to a Serious Crime Prevention Order, which imposes financial restrictions upon him for five years.
Today’s action benefits hundreds of Mr Gopee’s victims by removing entries registered against their properties by Mr Gopee’s illegal activities.
The charges, notices and restrictions are registered in the names of the following companies, formerly under the control of Mr Gopee but now in liquidation: 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.
Notes to editors
1. The FCA’s press release in relation to the prosecution action dated 9 February 2018.
2. The FCA’s Press Release in relation to the confiscation order dated 11 December 2019.
3. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this, it has three operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers.