SIX people have been arrested as part of a crackdown on illegal money lending in South London.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) working in partnership with the London Borough of Merton, Richmond upon Thames & Wandsworth Regulatory Services and the Metropolitan Police, executed warrants at six residential addresses in Mitcham and Wandsworth this morning (Tuesday, 22 October).
Officers seized large quantities of cash, documentation and electronic devices during the searches.
Five women aged 27, 46, 63, 65 and 68 and one man, aged 68 are being questioned in custody on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering offences.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “Loan sharks are notorious for targeting people when they are at their most desperate – exploiting and profiting from their situation and threatening and intimidating victims.
“We will continue to work with our partner agencies to ensure loan sharks operating in London are identified and their unscrupulous activities stopped.”
PICTURED: Evidence seized from suspect address in Wandsworth
The arrests were made as part of a nationwide government crackdown on loan sharks.
HM Treasury announced a funding boost to tackling unlawful lending earlier this year. The money is being spent to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders and support their victims.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen, said: “Loan sharks prey on the most vulnerable in society, charging extortionate interest and using intimidation and violence to pressure their victims.
“We’ve increased funding for the Illegal Money Lending Team to over £5.8 million this year to fight back against this, while helping victims find reputable lenders.”
An estimated 310,000 households across the country are in debt to a loan shark. These criminals usually appear friendly at first but quickly trap their borrowers into spiralling debt.
Wandsworth Council’s Deputy Leader Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “We strongly support the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team and their ongoing efforts to tackle unscrupulous lenders and loan sharks who pose such a threat to some of the most vulnerable members of society.
“Here in Wandsworth we’ve helped set up a local credit union so that people on low incomes who find themselves excluded from mainstream banks and credit companies can obtain an affordable, safe and ethical loan. Our advice would always be to contact the credit union and steer clear of the sharks.”
Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 394 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 480 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £74.9 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 29,000 people.
To report a loan shark, call the 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222, text a report to 078600 22116 or visit the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk.