Swindon loan shark convicted in Scambuster case
On 14th December 2012, at Swindon Crown Court Harjinder Singh Sandhu of Swindon was convicted for lending money without a licence and was fined £1000 with £1200 costs and a confiscation order made for £133,050:00.
This follows a protracted investigation led by the South West Regional Enforcement Team who are a specialist Trading Standards team investigating cross border consumer offending regionally on behalf of the 15 authorities in the South West or nationally as directed by the National Trading Standards Board (NTSB).
Harjinder Sandhu pleaded guilty to conducting a consumer credit business without a licence from about the year 2000 to 26th October 2010, contrary to s.39 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 (“the CCA”), at Bristol Crown Court on 8th November 2012.
Sandhu runs a number of businesses in the Swindon area. These include Marshgate Garage, a MOT and motor repair facility on Stratton Road, Swindon and a small fleet of Hackney Carriages and Private Hire vehicles which he rents out to licensed taxi drivers. He was also involved in another line of business, namely the provision of loans to a variety of individuals. Sandhu does not hold a Consumer Credit Act licence and accordingly any loans made in the course of business by him to individuals were illegal.
Officers from the South West Regional Enforcement Team, supported by Swindon Borough Council Trading Standards staff executed warrants at his home address and Marshgate Garage on 26th October 2010. A significant quantity of documentation relating to illegal lending was seized. The officers also recovered a total of £217,295 in cash in both sterling and foreign currency from the two addresses. Some of this cash was stored in small sums within files.
Statements were obtained from five witnesses who borrowed money from Sandhu over a period stretching from the early 2000s to 2010. The sums borrowed range from £1,000 to £25,000. Documents evidencing the agreements reached between Sandhu and these individuals show an agreement to pay interest and in some cases to provide security such as motor vehicles. Whilst some of the witnesses state that they did not in fact pay interest, others did. In one case, interest of £1,500 was charged on a loan of £10,000, which was repaid in 11weeks. This equates to an annual rate of 71%.
In interview Sandhu gave no comment answers to all of the questions asked of him on both occasions. He relied on a prepared statement, which claimed that all of the cash seized was legitimate income, and that none was derived from lending or any other criminal activity.
All of the witnesses describe dealing with Sandhu in the provision of loans and the repayment of those loans.
Sandhu eventually admitted to lending a total value of £133,050, based on the figures provided by the witnesses and pleaded guilty before trial.
Vera Tomlinson, Swindon Borough Council's Cabinet Member for a Safer, Stronger Borough said “This is a great example of joint working between the Swindon Borough Council Trading Standards staff and the South West Regional Enforcement Team. Illegal money lending is a real problem, particularly in these tough economic times. We are concerned victims of loan sharks became trapped in never ending debt. We know that most loan sharks are particularly unpleasant people, who use intimidation and violence against their victims. For these reasons we are committed to tackling illegal money lending and working closely with the national and regional teams to target illegal money lenders in Swindon.”
The 1974 Consumer Credit Act legislation saw the introduction of the regulation of moneylenders in order to monitor and control the activities of lenders to protect consumers.
Illegal moneylenders are commonly referred to as ‘loan sharks’. Their activity often involves the exploitation of the less fortunate members of society who are disadvantaged in some way, often due to their financial or social status.
As part of a Government initiative to combat such activity the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) introduced regional teams under the umbrella of the Trading Standards Service to tackle illegal lending both in terms of enforcement and victim support.
The NTSB brings together trading standards experts from services across England and Wales to prioritise, fund and coordinate national and regional enforcement cases. It is responsible for gathering intelligence from around the country to combat rogue traders and tackle priorities such as internet scams, illegal money lending and other issues that go beyond local authority boundaries.
For more information about this case contact the SW Regional Scambusters office on 0117 3521233 or to speak to the National Trading Standards Board regarding a more general enquiry please contact the Trading Standards Institute press office on 0845 6089430.
Notes to editors
The National Trading Standards Board (NTSB) is a group of senior and experienced local government heads of trading standards, representing all trading standards services across England and Wales. The Board was established by the Government to improve the enforcement of laws intended to tackle rogue traders operating both regionally and nationally who are causing harm to consumers and legitimate businesses. The NTSB also issues grants and funds national and regional initiatives such as SCAMBUSTERS, the Illegal Money Lending Team and the e-Crime Unit.
SCAMBUSTERS is a BIS (Department of Business Innovation & Skills) funded project aimed at targeting rogue trading and scams across England Wales & Scotland, supporting 62 local authorities, protecting 21 million consumers.