Loan shark who made £250,000 is handed a suspended jail term

A 48-year-old woman who operated as a loan shark in West London has been given a suspended jail sentence and told to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

Saowaluk Fernando, of Harlington Road, Uxbridge, was found guilty of two counts of illegal money lending and two of money laundering between 2012 and 2019 following a trial.

She appeared before Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (June 28) where she was told by the judge, Recorder Peter Krepski, that this was a prolonged and persistent course of conduct. He sentenced her to 24 months in custody, suspended for 18 months as well as the unpaid work and an electronically monitored curfew for four months.

Fernando was arrested in December 2019 after an investigation by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), working in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and Hillingdon Trading Standards. The prosecution was brought by the IMLT.

Mr Ian Rees-Phillips, prosecuting on behalf of the IMLT, said Fernando handed out unlawful loans and then used the interest made from them to fund more loans to others.

She made an estimated £250,000 from her lending and used the proceeds to fund her own lifestyle and overpay on her mortgage, in the absence of other income

Mr Rees-Phillips said Fernando abused her position of trust with vulnerable borrowers and while her offending was not particularly sophisticated, it was sustained over a long period of time.

He said she appeared to have committed the offences across borders and continued to charge interest to customers even after being arrested.

A Proceeds Of Crime confiscation order is being considered and judgement will be made later in July.

Speaking after the hearing, head of the IMLT, Tony Quigley, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this trial and the sentence handed out today. We hope it sends a message to other illegal lenders that they cannot get away with this behaviour.

“People in communities may think someone offering loans in this way is doing them a favour, but the truth is that they are exploiting the vulnerable and acting illegally.

“We would like to thank the witnesses in this case. We realise it can be extremely difficult for people to speak about their borrowing – they may be ashamed or afraid of the person they have borrowed from. We want to reassure people in this position that we are here to help, and they can speak to a member of our team in confidence at any time to get the specialist help and support they need.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IMLT. Since its launch, the team has supported over 31,700 people and written off over £91.3 million worth of illegal debt, securing over 420 prosecutions for illegal money lending, leading to over 600 years in jail.

Anyone who has been affected by illegal money lending should call the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 confidential helpline 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.