A man has been arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering offences following an early morning raid in West London.
Officers from the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) and the Metropolitan Police Service executed search warrants at three addresses in Ealing Broadway on Wednesday, May 18.
Electronic equipment and documentation were recovered during searches of the properties.
A 55-year-old-man was arrested, questioned in custody and released under investigation and a 63-year-old-woman is helping with enquiries.
The IMLT works in partnership with Trading Standards officers from the London Borough of Ealing to investigate and prosecute loan sharks.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “We are determined to warn residents about the dangers of loan sharks, and we will work with partners to take action against them.
“Loan sharks are criminals that prey on the most vulnerable people in our communities. They trap their victims into spiralling debt and will often use intimidation and violence.
“We will not tolerate these activities in London and would urge anyone with information about loan sharks to report them as soon as possible.”
Councillor Bassam Mahfouz, cabinet member for decent living incomes at London Borough of Ealing, said: “We know that illegal money lenders operate in all communities and they exploit the most vulnerable people and low-income families.
“It’s a despicable crime and sadly, anyone can be the victim of a loan shark. They may start off being friendly and appear to offer the answer to people’s problems, but they’ll soon bite when you can’t pay.
“We don’t want families in Ealing to suffer at the hands of loan sharks. If you’re struggling with money or debt problems, help is available. It’s important to get advice about debt as early as possible through organisations such as Debt Advice Network, the National Debt Line or Step Change. As a council, we also offer support through our free Money Advice service.”
A recent report published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), Swimming with Sharks, estimated that 1.08 million people may currently owe money to loan sharks, with some lenders demanding sexual favours as repayment from borrowers.
Warning signs to indicate that you could be dealing with a loan shark include giving no paperwork upon the agreement of a loan, refusing to provide detailed information about a loan, intimidation and threats, taking items such as a bank card or passport until the debt is paid, and taking things from you if you do not pay on time.
Local residents, charities, community and voluntary groups, schools and statutory agencies can apply for grants of up to £5,000 for activities that highlight the dangers of loan sharks.
The Stop Loan Sharks Community Fund is made available from money seized from convicted loan sharks under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA). Organisations will need to demonstrate the positive impact their project would have on their community and how it will help tackle loan sharks.
Find out more about the grants and apply at www.stoploansharks.co.uk/poca-funding/
The closing date for applications is Thursday, 30th June 2022.
Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or use the secure online form here. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Click the chat box in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen to get connected to our expert support team.