LONDON (Reuters) - The first money lender jailed in Britain for illegally preying on often vulnerable people has been ordered by a London court to hand over more than 5 million pounds ($6.4 million) and pay victims another 230,000 pounds in compensation.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Tuesday that Dharam Prakash Gopee, who has been on home detention since serving about half of a three-and-a-half year jail term, could face a further 11-year jail sentence if he fails to pay up.
"Together with his jailing, this order seeks to deprive him of all his ill-gotten gains and to compensate victims," said Mark Steward, the FCA's head of enforcement, adding that Gopee had defied court orders in one of the worst cases of contempt of court seen by the regulator.
Gopee, who had been refused a consumer credit licence and was not FCA authorised, was convicted in 2018 of illegally loaning money to consumers at high interest rates between 2012 and 2016, securing loans against their properties and threatening to take possession if they failed to repay debts. He also served two prison terms for contempt of court.
The FCA has been cracking down on payday lenders and has introduced a cap on high interest rates. The criminal prosecution of Gopee was its first unlicensed consumer credit lending case.
Home detention curfew allows some people to be released early from custody with an electronic tag if they have a suitable address to go to.
(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley, Editing by William Maclean)