A man and woman have been arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering offences following an operation in Stockport.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) worked in partnership with officers from Greater Manchester Police to execute a warrant at an address in Brinnington on Wednesday, September 28.
Officers seized documentation and electronic devices during a search of the property.
The IMLT works in partnership with Stockport Council Trading Standards to investigate and prosecute illegal money lenders.
A 42-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were taken into custody for questioning. They have been released on police bail pending further enquiries.
Tony Quigley, Head of the Illegal Money Lending Team said: “Illegal money lenders are notorious for their ruthless exploitation of vulnerable people, preying on their fears with threats and intimidation to make a profit.
“People can easily get into debt with these unscrupulous lenders, especially when they threaten them or their family to repay money – many victims have had to take out further loans in an attempt to pay off existing debts with extortionate interest rates. As the problem worsens it can make victims feel powerless and afraid, leaving them unable to ever repay their debts or seek help.
“The operation this morning has been a great success and reflects the commitment of both forces to tackling illegal money lenders and protecting communities from harm. It sends a clear message to those involved in this criminal activity that the net is closing in on them and we will take action.”
Inspector Ian Ashenden, of our Stockport district, said: “Illegal money lenders pose a dangerous threat to our communities. They use intimidation to bully people into paying back huge loans, charging exorbitant interest rates, and threatening their victims with violence if they don’t pay.
“Today’s action comes after weeks of coordinated work with the IMLT as part of our joint-operation to identify and protect victims of this exploitation, and to target and prosecute offenders.
“Our work with IMLT will see us continue to raise awareness of loan sharks operating within Stockport and developing a common understanding of illegal money lending throughout the community.”
Cllr Helen Foster-Grime, Cabinet Member for Communities and Housing at Stockport Council, said: “Illegal money lenders prey on the most vulnerable in society and as a council we will do all we can to work with our partners to bring those responsible to justice. This is a good result and sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate this predatory behaviour in Stockport.”
A report published by the Centre for Social Justice 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.
Anyone with concerns about illegal money lending can contact the Stop Loan Sharks 24/7 Helpline in confidence on 0300 555 2222 or fill in our secure online form. Live Chat is available on the website between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday.