The verdict came in today at Southwark Crown Court after guilty verdicts yesterday for offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.
Between 2012 and 2016, Mr Gopee acted as an illegal lender despite being refused a consumer credit licence by the OFT, or securing any authorisation from the FCA.
He loaned money to vulnerable consumers at high rates, securing the loans against their property, and then sought to take possession if they failed to pay.
Over the four-year period, his own loan books showed that he issued approximately £1m of new loans and took in at least £2m in payments from old and new consumers, none of whom were aware that did not have a licence.
Higher consumer protection
The SCPO will begin on Gopee’s release from custody and last for five years. It includes conditions prohibiting him from conducting any business in the credit sphere, limits the number of bank facilities he is permitted to operate, and requires him to make disclosures of those banking facilities to the FCA. Breaching the terms of the order is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.
During sentencing, trial judge HHJ Beddoe noted that Gopee was aware of the regulator’s serious concerns, but ignored them, deciding instead to “… deliberately flout the law” ignoring the fact that he had lost his licence, and endeavouring to enforce agreements he knew were unenforceable but that debtors did not. He continued to pressurise debtors with demands for payment, threatening court action that he knew could not be sustained.
Mark Steward, director of enforcement and market oversight at the FCA, said: “The court is sending a very clear message that deliberate and repeated offending will lead to long periods of imprisonment. Today’s decision also imposes the FCA’s first Serious Crime Prevention Order which will severely inhibit Mr Gopee’s ability to reoffend and should protect consumers in the future. The FCA will continue to take whatever action is necessary to bring offenders to justice and protect consumers.”
Gopee has been banned from acting as a company director, having been disqualified on 5 May 2016 for the maximum period permissible of 15 years under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986. A number of his companies have already been wound up by the Official Receiver, and he has also been the subject of a restraint order obtained by the FCA on 25 June 2015 under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Following the lifting of a reporting restriction, the FCA had to bring two sets of proceedings against Gopee for contempt of court in relation to repeated breaches of that restraint order.
Gopee continues to serve his 15-month term of imprisonment for contempt, and his sentence for the recent offences will begin after that term has been completed in June 2018.
Proceedings have now begun at Southwark Crown Court to confiscate the proceeds of Gopee’s criminality.
Anyone who believes they have suffered financial loss as a result of this criminality, should contact: OpPontefractQueries@fca.org.uk or call 020 7066 7807.