Portsmouth’s loan sharks are warned - we will prosecute you

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A CRACKDOWN has been launched on loan sharks who operate in Portsmouth.

Birmingham City Council’s Illegal Money Lending Team has been hired to work in the city until March 2015.

The team of investigators will find out where illegal money lending exists and prosecute those doing the work.

The purpose of the move is to get a clear understanding of the scale and impact of the issue, and find out what the best form of enforcement is.

It’s hoped that it will help victims come forward and feel more confident that action is being taken.

It comes after a report by Alan Cufley, Portsmouth City Council’s head of corporate assets, business and standards, said illegal lending is happening across ‘all sectors of the community.’

The team has been hired by the council to help because its trading standards service can’t provide the level of specialist resources needed to carry out something this big, and offer support in the form of witness protection.

Portsmouth’s council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson approved the plans at a meeting yesterday. He said: ‘These are the best people to do this work. Loan sharks are a real nuisance in this city.

‘Some of them charge huge amounts of money.

‘We should be supporting people who are getting into really expensive debt.’

There’s no cost involved because the work is the responsibility of Birmingham City Council.’

Illegal moneylenders vary from those who lend £10 over a few days and demand £12 on repayment and provide substantial loans to entrepreneurs setting up businesses.

Interest rates range from 100 per cent up to 117,000 per cent APR in some instances.

An Illegal Money Lending Team was established as a pilot project in Birmingham. The scheme has now been extended to other areas.

Since December last year, nearly 3,000 illegal lenders have been identified, 600 loan sharks have been arrested, more than £40m worth of illegal debts has been written off and there have been 218 prosecutions, resulting in prison sentences totally more than 140 years.

More than 1,000 victims have been referred to alternative financial support.