A Birmingham carer has been handed a suspended prison sentence after admitting illegal money lending.
Tecla Bandawe, aged 44, appeared before Birmingham Crown Court on Friday, September 29.
The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) in partnership with Birmingham City Council Trading Standards and West Midlands Police.
Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, told the court a warrant was executed at Bandawe’s home in Soho Road, Handsworth, in March this year after allegations were made via the IMLT’s confidential hotline that she was operating as an illegal money lender.
The court heard that Bandawe is a Zimbabwean national who was employed as a carer and investigations by the IMLT found she was a member of a WhatsApp group with fellow Zimbabweans from across the country. Messages were uncovered that were said to be linked to her lending.
Mr Mortimer said that from 2020, Bandawe sent over 1,000 separate loans to at least 60 different people totalling £350,000, even though she was not authorised to do so by the Financial Conduct Authority.
She charged between 10% and 20% interest on each capital advance, with loans being usually for between one and four weeks.
Bandawe received over £375,000 in payments into her bank accounts over the period, thought to be loan repayments.
Recorder Balraj Bhatia KC said the people who took the loans out were clearly financially vulnerable and the case had crossed the custody threshold.
But he said he had taken into account Bandawe’s previous good character and guilty plea.
He sentenced her to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, with no conditions attached. There was no application for costs and no application for a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Speaking after the hearing, head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Tony Quigley, said: “This is an example of someone who targeted a specific community, pretending to be a friend offering a service, when in fact she was exploiting the vulnerable.
“We would always advise those who need access to affordable credit but who may not be eligible through mainstream banks to look at credit unions as an alternative.
“We will continue to work to rid our communities of these predatory illegal lenders who make money from those who can least afford it.”
Councillor Philip Davis, chair of Birmingham City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “Illegal money lenders prey on the vulnerable so it’s good to see a criminal lender brought to justice. Loan sharks create misery. The City Council will continue to work with the national Illegal Money Lending Team to tackle this crime.”
The Centre for Social Justice estimates that around 1.08 million people are borrowing from loan sharks in the UK. Since its launch in 2004, the IMLT has supported over 31,000 people and written off over £91 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 410 prosecutions for illegal money lending.
Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential hotline on 0300 555 2222 or access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk. Live Chat is available on the website from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.