The War on Loan Sharks


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The War on Loan Sharks

Documentary following the work of a small but dedicated team who work tirelessly to protect people from the devastating consequences of illegal money lending.


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Transcript


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This programme contains some strong language.

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This is about a manipulation of people who can't get money anywhere

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else, who can't go out to a bank or building society and

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get a legitimate loan.

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So, they are going to the loan shark,

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the unlicensed lender, and the lenders are taking advantage

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of these people. It becomes a never-ending debt,

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until something happens where that cycle gets broken.

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More and more people are turning to loan sharks...

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A crackdown's been promised on loan sharks...

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..with exorbitant rates of interest and threats of violence

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if they don't pay up.

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..lent the family £500 and then forced them to repay £88,000.

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..extortionate interest rates, threats and violence.

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Moneylending is big news and big business.

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The current public demand for quick cash has seen the dramatic rise

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of high street moneylenders,

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but away from the high street lie the unscrupulous loan sharks.

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Their loans are far from cheap and are costing people dearly.

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They're in your pubs, your betting offices.

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They wait at the school gates.

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Sometimes people are struggling that much that they have to turn to them.

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But who are they?

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'I'm going to make fucking sure you fucking pay me.'

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How do they operate?

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People have been kidnapped off the street and then tortured.

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What is the human cost?

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I've thought about jumping off of road bridges.

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The easiest thing to do is end your life.

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And what can be done to stop it?

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Can we come inside your house, please?

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Supported by the police on the front line of the battle to take down

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illegal moneylenders is a small, national, dedicated unit,

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called the England Illegal Money Lending Team.

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Jacqui Kennedy has been with Birmingham City Council all her working life.

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12 years ago, she was convinced that loan sharks were plaguing vulnerable

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communities in her home city, so she set out to build a team within

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Trading Standards with a simple mission.

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The objectives were clear, really -

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find out if there are any loan sharks out there,

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and if there are any, prosecute them.

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The team highlighted such a widespread problem that the project

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has since gone national.

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I think there's a misconception about what loan sharks are.

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They're not your payday lenders.

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They're not your high-interest lenders.

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They're people who are completely unregulated.

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They'll lend you money, but you don't have any paperwork.

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You don't necessarily...you won't even know how much you have

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to pay back and they can't get the

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money back from you through legal means and that's where it all goes

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wrong. That is where they just use intimidation, violence, threats,

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whatever it takes to get the money back.

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If you've got no help anywhere else,

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I think loan sharks do provide a service.

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At the end of the day, people around here borrow money because they're

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desperate for it. Some might borrow for their next meal.

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If you've got kids and you didn't get paid one day from the Jobcentre

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cos they didn't pay you or something,

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how else are you going to feed your kids?

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Not a normal person like us. We can't get a loan from the bank.

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Do you know what I mean?

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It's quite easy to find a loan shark anywhere,

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especially on estates like this.

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Go into the pubs and they'll be over to you,

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practically pushing the money into your hand.

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I think a lot of people don't tell people that they're involved in a

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loan shark because of the fear of what they could do to you and your family.

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The name "loan shark" has been bandied about willy-nilly and it may

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detract from the sort of people that are here displayed on the board

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behind me because THESE are loan sharks.

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They're not a community service.

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They're thugs and criminals.

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'You've got till 12 o'clock, otherwise, girls,

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'them fucking fellas are coming through your fucking door!'

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This is where we put evidence.

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These are some of the tools of the trade, if you like,

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that we've seen in previous cases.

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Parsons, Weaver, Weaver and Young was a gang that tended to prey on

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young women, single mums.

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They would send you a text saying, "If you don't pay, I'll end you."

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"If you don't pay, I'll snap your jaw."

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"One, two, Money's coming for you."

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That's a threat.

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You receive that sort of message on your mobile phone,

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that would frighten you to death.

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It's all about, you know, portraying to everybody in that community,

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"You just don't mess with me, and if you do mess with me,

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"there's going to be trouble."

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Mother of three Carol Highton paid the ultimate price

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when her son Brian got involved with a predatory loan shark,

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who had over 1,200 customers on his books.

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Today, what I want to do is actually share a story and it is a very sad

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story and it's a very real, true story that happened to my family.

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My son told us about a friend of his.

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Now, this friend was in debt.

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He'd borrowed £300 off a loan shark.

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In the space of a few weeks, it had gone right up to £3,400

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and there were threats being made.

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The threats were that they were going to rape

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this young man's sister,

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they were going to shoot his mum,

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they were going to go through his home.

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I did ask, "Did he go to the police?"

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And Brian, being Brian, said, "You don't go the bizzies, Mam.

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"It makes things much worse.

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"You don't know what you're talking about."

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Well, then, when I think back, I realised.

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Brian wasn't talking about no friend of his.

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He was talking about himself.

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On 3rd December,

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I never could have imagined that I was going to walk into my home

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and find what we did.

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I went up the stairs and just seen my son and he was in...

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I got to the top of the landing and there's my son,

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hanging from a belt from the attic in my bathroom.

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Just...

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Oh...

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Just... Oh, God.

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Never in a million years would my big, strong, handsome,

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caring boy have just taken his life willy-nilly like that.

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And what he must have been is scared for his family,

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cos the threats which were made were very real indeed.

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Paul Nicholson saw himself as the most powerful guy on the estate and

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a whole community couldn't breathe because of it.

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He's serving a sentence, for the protection of the public,

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an indefinite sentence.

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We estimated he made about £4.8 million.

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He was living this footballer's lifestyle.

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That was all on the backs of people who could least afford it.

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He had a number of collectors that used to collect the money each week,

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but he would go and enforce the debt.

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He went as far as to rape somebody and that was for a small debt.

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Brian took his life just six weeks after taking the loan from Nicholson.

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Afterwards, Carol became one of the team's most powerful advocates.

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She works tirelessly to spread the message in her local community,

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encouraging others to come forward and share their stories.

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I do what I do because I'm not afraid of these people.

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The reason I'm not afraid is they've done the worst thing already to me.

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There's nothing else that can touch me.

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I've had families sat in front of me pouring their hearts out,

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telling me what they've done to them, you know,

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beating them up or following them.

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A two-year-old child dangled over a balcony.

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You've got something like that happening to you,

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you're not going to put a foot wrong.

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You're going to do whatever they ask you to do.

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This problem is massive.

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It's everywhere.

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Today, the team is in Stoke, where, last year,

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10,000 people turned to food banks to feed their families.

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This level of desperation makes people easy prey for loan sharks.

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The investigators are working with the local police force

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to serve a warrant to raid a

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suspected loan shark's house,

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who targets taxi drivers.

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It's suspected that he goes around in a black cab Hackney carriage

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collecting from his various borrowers.

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Now, the informant's told us that he carries an iron bar down the side of

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the seat should it need to be used,

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but he's not indicated that it's been kind of shown to him

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or anything else.

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The team faces possible reprisals from the criminals they put away,

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so their identities need to remain secret.

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So, this is a crucial moment now and fundamental to the success of the

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operation in how we approach this.

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It's about establishing control and locking down those premises

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as quickly and efficiently and quietly as possible.

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We will ask key questions in that early stage of taking control,

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about where are your mobile phones, we want PIN numbers.

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If there's any significant amounts of cash located on the premises

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and the police and our embedded officers and the lead officer will

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be generally getting the house and immediate location under control,

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obviously without trying to attract too much attention from other people.

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Here we go.

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Morning. Hiya, is it Abdul?

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-Er, no.

-No? Can I come inside? I'm from the police, mate.

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I'm from the National Illegal Money Lending Team.

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-OK?

-Yes.

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Basically, we've had an allegation that you've been lending money out

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and collecting it back with interest,

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so we've got a warrant to search the premises today.

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OK?

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So, what's going to happen is I'm arresting you on suspicion of

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illegal moneylending and money laundering.

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You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do

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not mention, when questioned, something which you later rely on in court.

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Anything you do say may be given in evidence. Do you understand that?

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The suspect is in no doubt or misunderstanding about the fact

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he is under arrest.

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His liberty's been taken away and he'll be detained in custody to go

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through the interview process later on today and I am pretty confident

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that we'll release him on bail pending further inquiries,

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which is the normal procedure we would follow.

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This is the entry video for Operation Unimac.

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What we now do is we ensure that we video the property.

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That is for a number of reasons.

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One is about the security of my staff in terms of

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any future allegations of damage or theft or anything like that,

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which has happened in the past,

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but also, importantly, to secure a visual image for the court,

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should we end up prosecuting this person and we would do what we call

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a "video of significant find" if that's the case -

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cash under floorboards, tucked away in cupboards,

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phones or SIM cards that may be hidden.

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Part of that process is we number all of the rooms and locations in the premises.

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Room ten.

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In a jacket

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inside pocket...

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..there's an envelope...

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..and there is...

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..cash inside.

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We are finding significant amounts of cash secreted in jacket pockets

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and so forth in one of the bedrooms,

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predominantly in large bundles of £50 notes and £20 notes,

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which is quite significant to us, as it's an early, strong indication

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that it's the profit from some other activity -

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we suspect providing unlicensed loans.

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Inside the pockets and we have got two wads of cash.

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We never count it at the premises.

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It's always double-bagged and sealed

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and then is counted under video conditions.

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About 7,000.

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One of the most important things is to secure the mobile phones.

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People will do things like eating their SIM cards

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or just trying to throw them away.

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Down there is a bank bag with £20 notes and other notes inside.

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Bearing in mind, this man,

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there's evidence in this house that he hasn't paid any of his standard

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bills that we're all expected to pay and he's receiving additional

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benefits, you wouldn't expect to find multi-thousand pounds

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tucked away in clothing in the bedroom or stuffed down

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the side of the settee.

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It's just not normal.

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More cash there, mate.

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Right, we've got wage slips there.

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He's earning £97.28 a week.

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I'll bet!

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And he's got about ten grand in his house.

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That's fantastic savings, isn't it?

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Wish I was that good with money.

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How many other people around here have got ten grand stuffed away

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in their bedrooms and what have you?

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Not many.

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I would like to think that the public think we are providing

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a positive and worthwhile service.

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One thing that does bug people are other people who make good,

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ready cash and don't pay their bills like everybody else has to do.

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The public will say, "Right, well, that's a good service.

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"If they're making people face up to the reality like I'm having to do,

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"then that's a good thing because we're all in it together

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"at the moment, aren't we, as a nation."

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The team has brought so many violent criminals to justice that they need

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to operate from a hidden location in Birmingham.

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Their work even remains a secret to the other tenants

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who share their building.

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Loan shark team, Jenny Cook speaking. How may I help you?

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Morning, everybody.

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Morning, boss. How are you?

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The day begins...

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Tony has led the team since it started.

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His daily challenge is to manage the department's limited resources at a

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time when the scale of the problem is increasing.

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I've got 60 officers to cover the whole of England.

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That includes my support team, you know, my administration,

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my investigators and my liaise team and it's not a huge amount.

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So, what are the nature of the threats, then?

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Have we got evidence to say the threats aren't just verbal,

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there is actual substance behind them?

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The officers are away from their homes sometimes three,

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four days a week investigating loan shark operations and they do it

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in very difficult circumstances sometimes.

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Hello, Trading Standards.

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Our mission is to identify loan sharks and to bring them to justice.

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It's to support people who are at their most vulnerable.

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Ta-ta, mate.

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Normally, people will use a loan shark as a last resort

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because, erm, something's happened.

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Whatever it may be, you know, they may have lost their job.

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They just think, "If I can see my way through for the next few days,

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"couple of weeks, then, effectively, I can get out of this trouble."

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The debts get worse because the loan shark just applies

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more and more pressure.

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Some of the interest rates, the APRs, that we can quote,

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go into the hundreds of thousands of percent.

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You know, we've had instances where you go through the loan books and

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you just see the bill being doubled.

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They apply that many charges that, effectively, you can never pay it back.

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I'm going to play you a clip now.

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What we're looking at here is how a loan shark

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can affect somebody's life.

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And that just continues and continues and continues.

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It must be dreadful to wake up every day thinking,

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"I haven't got enough money to pay the loan shark,"

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and to get calls like that just to add to that feeling of dread.

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Can you just explain a little bit about the situation?

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How did your mum get to meet this person?

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Basically, we've got an intel unit, which is at the far end of the room,

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and they will build on any intelligence that comes in,

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to the point where we can carry out a warrant.

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Do you know roughly, over time, the total that she's paid back up to now?

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There are two teams out executing warrants, seizing evidence,

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effecting arrests.

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We've done three this week, so that tells you how successful we can be

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at it - and that can be from information that was quite scant.

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From our point of view, knowledge is power.

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Information comes from the hotline or via Twitter or Facebook.

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The hotline is open 24/7 and we've been known to have phone calls

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in the middle of the night, sort of two, three o'clock in the morning,

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cos that's when someone can be at their lowest ebb.

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Some people have borrowed money, obviously, because they've got

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bills to pay and they're at the end of their tether financially,

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but I've heard stories of other people who've borrowed money

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to buy a dog, say.

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So, everybody's story's different, but, no matter how it starts,

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it always ends the same.

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This is the cash count for Operation Unimac.

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This is four lots of cash that was seized this morning.

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So, we'll do a bullet-point debrief now of the morning warrant, please.

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You had a conversation with an individual who's willing to assist

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and they've given a snippet of information.

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Yeah. Basically, they're saying that he's not the only lender.

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There are other people in the syndicate lending money out and he

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says that our suspect lends money out at casinos,

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so a lot of taxi drivers go there, they gamble.

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When they lose money, he's there waiting with ready cash.

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The way it works is they borrow, say, £100 and they pay double back.

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Every time, he charges double on every amount that he lends out.

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Has it been a success? Yes, I think so.

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Now we go into the post-arrest stage of enquiries to build up a case.

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If there is a case to answer and if we then decide to charge this

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individual, we then look to prepare the case for prosecution at court.

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Grand total of £13,800.

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At the moment, it's all looking good and I think we're on course

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for a prosecution.

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Cath is travelling to Birkenhead in the Wirral.

0:18:580:19:00

She manages the team that deals directly with the victims.

0:19:000:19:04

The district recently had an unemployment rate

0:19:040:19:07

double the national average.

0:19:070:19:08

Cath spends up to four days a week travelling to some of the most

0:19:080:19:12

deprived areas in the country to meet victims.

0:19:120:19:15

We're primarily victim and witness support -

0:19:150:19:16

that's the bread-and-butter bit of our role -

0:19:160:19:18

and then also we try and prevent people going to loan sharks.

0:19:180:19:21

That's our aim in life, if you like.

0:19:210:19:23

So, it's about trying to get information to communities through

0:19:230:19:25

the press, do whatever else we can do to make sure they know we exist

0:19:250:19:28

and that support is available.

0:19:280:19:30

She's here to help a housing association who've noticed

0:19:310:19:34

a suspicious spike in the level of rent arrears amongst their tenants.

0:19:340:19:38

If you've got a loan shark operating on one of your estates and

0:19:390:19:42

you're a housing association,

0:19:420:19:43

I pretty much guarantee your rent arrears will go through the roof,

0:19:430:19:45

cos people will pay the loan shark before paying the rent

0:19:450:19:48

because of the fear factor.

0:19:480:19:50

So, they want to join in the fight,

0:19:500:19:51

they want to help us identify them and get them removed from the areas

0:19:510:19:54

that they work in.

0:19:540:19:56

What we want to do is give the front-line staff the tools and

0:19:560:19:59

the knowledge to be able to talk to people about loan sharks.

0:19:590:20:01

The question we always get asked, "How many loan sharks are there?"

0:20:030:20:05

I bet I get asked that today and the honest answer is we don't know

0:20:050:20:08

because they're not registered.

0:20:080:20:09

It's like asking how many drug dealers are there.

0:20:090:20:11

If I could do any job, I'd be on the stage, so this is as close as I get.

0:20:120:20:15

So, basically we're going to look at what is a loan shark,

0:20:170:20:20

who we are and what we can do about it, basically.

0:20:200:20:22

There's quite a lot of media, you're probably aware at the moment,

0:20:220:20:25

about legal loan sharks, in inverted commas.

0:20:250:20:27

It's a phrase that drives me mad.

0:20:270:20:28

It's a bit like saying "legal burglar".

0:20:280:20:30

There are high-cost lenders, but they're not legal loan sharks.

0:20:300:20:33

That really drives me mad, cos I think it blurs the line

0:20:330:20:36

for the public about what we're talking about a lot of the time.

0:20:360:20:38

In this country, there is no cap on the interest rate you want to charge

0:20:380:20:41

as a business. If you want to charge 1,000,000% interest,

0:20:410:20:44

you are able to do so, as long as your paperwork is correct and

0:20:440:20:47

you advertise it right.

0:20:470:20:48

Last year, about 50% of our intelligence came from victims

0:20:480:20:51

themselves or from family and friends who were worried about them,

0:20:510:20:55

and about 50% came from people like you guys, from partner agencies

0:20:550:20:58

who were working with someone and had concerns.

0:20:580:21:00

The highest sentence you can get for illegal lending at the moment is

0:21:010:21:04

two years and/or a £5,000 fine.

0:21:040:21:06

Cos what we want to do is show the court this isn't a technical offence.

0:21:060:21:09

This isn't just someone lending money without a bit of paper.

0:21:090:21:11

This is someone who's having a massive impact on that community

0:21:110:21:14

and needs to be stopped.

0:21:140:21:15

So, if, for example, a loan shark is demanding money with menaces,

0:21:150:21:19

which is what they do day in, day out,

0:21:190:21:21

we can charge them with blackmail.

0:21:210:21:23

Five-year sentence for blackmail.

0:21:230:21:24

Much more like it.

0:21:240:21:26

We've charged with counterfeit goods, we've charged with assault,

0:21:260:21:30

kidnap, erm, rape - anything to show the extent of the criminality.

0:21:300:21:34

I manage people who live and work all over England,

0:21:400:21:43

so it can be the case sometimes that I'm in Newcastle one day

0:21:430:21:45

and Plymouth the next day.

0:21:450:21:47

I don't have a typical week.

0:21:470:21:48

I think I've done this job five and a half years now,

0:21:480:21:51

and I'm not bored and that's really unusual for me.

0:21:510:21:54

I think the fact that it keeps evolving and keeps changing and

0:21:540:21:57

you never know what's going to happen next is part of the reason

0:21:570:21:59

that I'm still passionate about it and still interested in it.

0:21:590:22:03

So, we're on our way to Hull.

0:22:030:22:04

We're going to go past the beautiful Humber Bridge shortly and we're

0:22:040:22:07

going to meet a couple of people who borrowed from a loan shark

0:22:070:22:10

in the past who are willing to speak to you guys on camera.

0:22:100:22:13

I love this bridge. I think it's beautiful.

0:22:140:22:16

Pretending I'm in San Francisco!

0:22:160:22:17

Hull may have won the 2017 bid as the City of Culture,

0:22:220:22:26

but its residents have the least amount of disposable income in the UK.

0:22:260:22:30

Two victims became involved with the notorious loan shark Darren Wilson,

0:22:320:22:36

who operated a criminal empire across the city.

0:22:360:22:39

They've both asked not to be identified.

0:22:400:22:43

INTERVIEWER: So, how did you get involved with Darren Wilson?

0:22:430:22:46

Well, we'd been trying bank loans and stuff like that and

0:22:460:22:48

nobody would help out, so we heard from word of mouth about this person

0:22:480:22:52

who was lending money out so we just went with them.

0:22:520:22:55

You take out these normal loans and the interest

0:22:550:22:57

they're charging and what he was charging, he was just, like,

0:22:570:23:01

simpler to get a loan from, really.

0:23:010:23:04

He never brought any paperwork with him.

0:23:040:23:05

You always used to pay him cash in hand.

0:23:070:23:09

It'd start off small loans, about £75.

0:23:090:23:12

We'd been paying constantly for quite a few years.

0:23:120:23:14

The payments got higher and you were paying more back and if you didn't

0:23:140:23:18

pay him on time, he used to bring his heavies in with him,

0:23:180:23:21

so you just had no choice but to pay him.

0:23:210:23:24

When I met Darren, I thought he was just a normal, standard guy like us.

0:23:240:23:27

But when you miss a payment, that's it, he changes. And he said,

0:23:270:23:30

"By the end of the day, if you don't pay me, I'll knock your teeth out."

0:23:300:23:33

With Darren, it's a case of he's not bothered who you are,

0:23:330:23:36

as long as he's getting paid.

0:23:360:23:38

You couldn't sleep at night.

0:23:380:23:40

Any bang, you never know if it's him at the door.

0:23:400:23:42

You're just panicking all the time.

0:23:420:23:44

I tried suicide.

0:23:440:23:45

That was probably the only way, I think, that was a way out for me.

0:23:450:23:49

Wilson was described by the judge as somebody who was acting like a

0:23:490:23:52

gangster. He'd got nearly 500 loans out into the community.

0:23:520:23:57

Over £200,000 he'd pushed out and you see, you know, things we found

0:23:570:24:01

in his house, like a machete and a knuckleduster.

0:24:010:24:03

12 and a half years he's been sent to prison for -

0:24:030:24:06

conspiracy to commit murder, arson, illegal moneylending.

0:24:060:24:09

I think until you've walked a mile in someone's shoes,

0:24:100:24:12

you should never judge them. I think it's really difficult for people and

0:24:120:24:15

the problem is that the loan shark is such a plausible,

0:24:150:24:18

friendly option at the time that why wouldn't you take it?

0:24:180:24:21

If someone said to me tonight, with payday still a couple of weeks away

0:24:210:24:25

just after Christmas, "Do you want a couple of hundred quid?

0:24:250:24:28

"Pay me back whenever," I'm not 100% sure, if I didn't do this job,

0:24:280:24:30

that I'd turn them down.

0:24:300:24:32

We averaged it out that most people probably have a loan of about £350.

0:24:320:24:36

Some people might say, "Well, they had the loan. What do they expect?"

0:24:360:24:40

But we all make rash decisions at times and we all make mistakes,

0:24:400:24:44

but why should you have to pay for that for the rest of your life

0:24:440:24:47

for one mistake?

0:24:470:24:49

The England Illegal Money Lending Team has its own legal department.

0:24:510:24:55

who pursue loan sharks through the courts, headed up by Simon.

0:24:550:25:00

With 26 cases last year, he has a heavy and growing caseload.

0:25:000:25:04

We were the first team to properly address the problem of illegal moneylending -

0:25:040:25:11

and illegal moneylending comes in many different forms.

0:25:110:25:13

We have the classic loan sharks, who are violent towards their borrowers.

0:25:130:25:18

Then there are the ones who simply threaten and then there are

0:25:180:25:21

the others, who simply don't have violence in their nature.

0:25:210:25:24

We have more cases coming in from more diverse areas and so we do,

0:25:260:25:31

literally, travel the whole country.

0:25:310:25:33

One worries about the community as a whole, wherever it be, because

0:25:370:25:41

it seems to me that there is a whole swathe of society out there

0:25:410:25:46

that isn't properly addressed in terms of the financial sector that,

0:25:460:25:51

no matter how much you dress it up,

0:25:510:25:54

they still need £50 at the end of August to go to a cheap shop

0:25:540:25:59

to buy school uniforms for their three kids.

0:25:590:26:01

When loan sharks are prosecuted and convicted,

0:26:030:26:07

I would imagine that some of the victims wring their hands with glee

0:26:070:26:12

at the fact that they don't have to pay the money back.

0:26:120:26:15

People who have given statements, one obviously worries for them.

0:26:150:26:19

One worries for people who have to give evidence.

0:26:190:26:22

I was scared of reporting him.

0:26:250:26:26

I didn't want to report him, just in case he found out that I did it.

0:26:260:26:29

INTERVIEWER: What do you think of the person that did report him?

0:26:290:26:32

Well, I'd just like to thank them, really,

0:26:320:26:34

cos it's just got us out of a great big hole.

0:26:340:26:37

There's many issues with victims coming forward.

0:26:370:26:39

There's a massive fear of reprisals from the loan shark.

0:26:390:26:42

There's a fear of reprisals from the community, in terms of being

0:26:420:26:44

labelled a grass.

0:26:440:26:46

There's a fear of the unknown, in a way, of putting your head above the

0:26:460:26:49

parapet, and there's also a lack of knowledge.

0:26:490:26:52

If people don't know this is a criminal offence and don't know

0:26:520:26:54

there is a team out there who can support them,

0:26:540:26:57

then they're not going to report it.

0:26:570:26:58

I actually went to the police when I was dealing with it.

0:26:580:27:02

I put in a statement to the police about it.

0:27:020:27:05

Got home, rang the police up and withdrew my statement,

0:27:050:27:08

because I was so scared of what would happen.

0:27:080:27:10

Cath is supporting a victim who's been brave enough to come forward

0:27:100:27:14

and give evidence against a loan shark who trapped him in a

0:27:140:27:17

cycle of debt for three years.

0:27:170:27:19

I would class myself as a very respectable person.

0:27:190:27:22

I've never been in trouble or anything like that.

0:27:220:27:24

I've worked all my life and as soon as you hit a bad spell,

0:27:240:27:28

these people are there to prey on you.

0:27:280:27:29

It all started about three years ago.

0:27:310:27:33

My wife became poorly,

0:27:340:27:36

I had to give up work to look after her,

0:27:360:27:38

and we found ourselves with no money.

0:27:380:27:41

We tried the banks, we tried other places and no-one would touch me,

0:27:410:27:46

so, the only option you're left with is to go through to the illegal money thing.

0:27:460:27:50

The first time I met him,

0:27:510:27:53

he came across as somebody that wanted to be a friend,

0:27:530:27:56

not just someone that's helping you.

0:27:560:27:57

The amounts I was borrowing got higher.

0:27:570:27:59

It got up to, like, £100, maybe £200 a week.

0:27:590:28:02

Then it got nasty, because we weren't paying back the exact amount

0:28:020:28:06

that we wanted from them, there was more interest added on.

0:28:060:28:09

Threats started to be issued, that your windows would get put through.

0:28:090:28:14

At times, there was spit coming out of his mouth when he was talking

0:28:140:28:17

to you and it just affected me so much.

0:28:170:28:20

I sat down in my chair one morning with my phone in one hand,

0:28:210:28:25

which had the details to ring the Illegal Money Lending Team,

0:28:250:28:28

and a pile of pills on the other side and it was a toss-up which to do.

0:28:280:28:32

There is always another option somewhere.

0:28:320:28:34

If you can do without it,

0:28:340:28:35

stay away from them, cos they're nothing but poison.

0:28:350:28:38

An undercover officer from the team is in Stockport,

0:28:490:28:53

an area suffering from rising crime rates.

0:28:530:28:55

We can see that it's a fairly close-knit estate.

0:28:580:29:01

Lots of people know each other, so we have to be very sensitive to

0:29:010:29:05

how we're going to carry out the investigation.

0:29:050:29:07

So, we want to get a full feel for where we're operating

0:29:070:29:11

and the potential risks that are involved.

0:29:110:29:14

He's scouting a council estate after receiving intelligence

0:29:150:29:18

about a family-run gang suspected of illegal moneylending.

0:29:180:29:22

It is a lockdown-type estate,

0:29:240:29:26

managed, primarily, by one family.

0:29:260:29:29

They have a total and utter grip,

0:29:290:29:32

a grip managed by fear

0:29:320:29:35

and, where necessary, actual physical retribution.

0:29:350:29:39

One of the key factors is the element of surprise when you're

0:29:410:29:44

conducting this sort of investigation,

0:29:440:29:47

not only in terms of combating them as people because they've used

0:29:470:29:51

firearms or drugs or knives, for example, before,

0:29:510:29:54

but also in terms of making sure we get the best chance

0:29:540:29:58

of securing the key evidence that we want.

0:29:580:30:00

We have 46 people, all identified,

0:30:010:30:04

all of whom we can demonstrate have had loans

0:30:040:30:07

and not one of them is prepared to make a witness statement.

0:30:070:30:11

The people of this estate live in fear of repercussion.

0:30:110:30:15

We have seen significant cases of violence, of injury,

0:30:160:30:20

of broken bones, of assault and of damage to property and injuries

0:30:200:30:26

to pets as well, which is something which seems to be on the increase.

0:30:260:30:29

Doing things like throwing liquid over the person in their premises

0:30:290:30:34

and claiming it's petrol and the next time,

0:30:340:30:37

there'll be a match with it.

0:30:370:30:38

The impact on that individual and the family is huge

0:30:380:30:42

and can be really long-lasting.

0:30:420:30:45

Whilst the bulk of it is just the perception by the individual victim,

0:30:450:30:50

as I say, make no mistake about it,

0:30:500:30:52

there are some people who do and will carry through their threats.

0:30:520:30:56

The team now has enough evidence to launch a dawn raid

0:31:030:31:06

at two addresses on the estate.

0:31:060:31:08

It's four o'clock in the morning.

0:31:100:31:12

We're in convoy at the moment.

0:31:120:31:13

We're going to Cheadle Police Station.

0:31:130:31:16

There's been massive preparation in respect of this and the interesting

0:31:160:31:20

thing is that we don't know what we're going to find this morning.

0:31:200:31:23

It's always the unknown, this is.

0:31:230:31:24

We'll be executing a number of warrants in the Greater Manchester

0:31:270:31:33

area as part of Operation Oche.

0:31:330:31:35

There are going to be significant numbers of police officers out on

0:31:350:31:39

this particular job and it will be a rapid entry.

0:31:390:31:44

Each and every one of you must make sure that you wear

0:31:440:31:47

your protective body armour.

0:31:470:31:49

The intelligence gathered suggests there may be weapons

0:31:510:31:53

at the properties, so 40 armed police officers have been deployed

0:31:530:31:57

to assist them in executing the warrant.

0:31:570:32:00

You just want to make sure that everything runs smoothly,

0:32:010:32:04

that people are safe and that there are no incidents.

0:32:040:32:07

That's what goes through your mind.

0:32:070:32:08

We have to consider not only the safety of the occupants,

0:32:080:32:11

but we also have to consider the safety of the officers.

0:32:110:32:14

It's just round the corner now.

0:32:170:32:18

A shout will go across the radio system and it has to all happen

0:32:250:32:28

at the same time, otherwise there's potential for word to get out and

0:32:280:32:32

people to start destroying evidence.

0:32:320:32:34

You always get butterflies.

0:32:360:32:37

You don't know what you're going to find behind the door.

0:32:370:32:40

DOG BARKS

0:32:460:32:47

Police! Stay where you are!

0:32:520:32:53

Normally, by the time that we start conducting the search,

0:33:010:33:05

everything is calm and safe.

0:33:050:33:08

But, nevertheless, you do have concerns that once you go in,

0:33:080:33:11

at that moment you don't know what you're going to expect,

0:33:110:33:14

or how people are going to react.

0:33:140:33:16

We all have access to a number of weapons.

0:33:160:33:17

We've all got kitchens, we've all got knives.

0:33:170:33:19

Some people may have a history of firearms,

0:33:190:33:22

some people may have a history of violence.

0:33:220:33:24

Well, this morning's been a successful morning.

0:33:310:33:33

We've executed the warrant and made a number of arrests and

0:33:330:33:37

it'll be further enquiries now, throughout the day.

0:33:370:33:40

The officers are going through, systematically, each room.

0:33:440:33:47

They'll be looking at documents, bits of paper,

0:33:470:33:50

whatever it may be that they feel may be potential evidence.

0:33:500:33:53

Paperwork, mobile phones, laptops are what we're looking for,

0:33:530:33:57

particularly when it comes to any sort of written paperwork

0:33:570:34:00

that looks like a loan book.

0:34:000:34:02

We won't have a true picture of what's gone on until

0:34:030:34:06

we get all of the documents back to the police station to sift through

0:34:060:34:10

and sort out what potential evidence there is.

0:34:100:34:13

It's not just paperwork that can incriminate.

0:34:150:34:17

Mobile phones are an essential part of evidence gathering

0:34:170:34:20

that can help secure a conviction.

0:34:200:34:22

The forensic investigator is able to examine them

0:34:220:34:25

and unlock their secrets.

0:34:250:34:27

One of the important aspects of any search is to recover the phones

0:34:270:34:30

that belong to the suspect.

0:34:300:34:32

You may uncover text messages between suspect and victims,

0:34:320:34:36

where they're demanding payment for loans given out,

0:34:360:34:39

occasionally making threats.

0:34:390:34:41

You may uncover other criminality.

0:34:410:34:43

This reader will examine the SIM card.

0:34:450:34:49

It will provide data relevant to that handset

0:34:490:34:52

and I would run a search.

0:34:520:34:53

Tap in something like "loan" to start with

0:34:530:34:56

and look to see how many times the word "loan" comes up.

0:34:560:35:00

That then gives me a very quick indication of whether

0:35:000:35:03

this is a phone of a loan shark or not.

0:35:030:35:07

The importance is achieving best evidence for us, really,

0:35:070:35:09

and is to be able to take into an interview with a suspect

0:35:090:35:13

details of any conversations they may well have had with victims,

0:35:130:35:16

via text messages, via chat or e-mail,

0:35:160:35:19

which may well show criminality.

0:35:190:35:21

Some loan sharks never impose any fear or intimidation.

0:35:330:35:38

It's all about the relationship, it's all about the rapport.

0:35:380:35:41

You'll pay them because obviously you feel that they're

0:35:410:35:44

your best friend and they use that.

0:35:440:35:47

"Oh, come on, I lent you the money when you had bad times."

0:35:470:35:50

They never talk about how they're ripping you off.

0:35:500:35:53

Now, if they have to be nice to you to get you to pay those extortionate

0:35:530:35:57

amounts, then that's what they'll do.

0:35:570:35:59

If they have to be nasty to you, that's what they'll do.

0:35:590:36:02

I put no divide between either/or.

0:36:040:36:06

Many illegal money lenders feel they are simply doing someone a favour.

0:36:100:36:14

If one is doing it occasionally,

0:36:140:36:16

then it isn't an offence.

0:36:160:36:18

If I lend you £10 on a Friday and you give me £10 back on Saturday,

0:36:180:36:23

that's not an offence, obviously.

0:36:230:36:24

But it snowballs over and above friendship,

0:36:240:36:27

over and above occasional to commercial.

0:36:270:36:30

If I'm lending you £100 and you're giving me back £150,

0:36:300:36:35

then that, quite simply, is commercial, in my view.

0:36:350:36:38

If it quacks and got feathers and swims,

0:36:380:36:41

it's probably a duck, right?

0:36:410:36:44

If you're lending money to people at work and getting back more than

0:36:440:36:48

you've lent out, then you're probably a business.

0:36:480:36:51

What is surprising about a lot of the illegal moneylenders is that

0:36:520:36:58

they know how much money they're making.

0:36:580:36:59

So, why on earth don't they simply go and get a licence

0:37:010:37:03

and legitimise themselves?

0:37:030:37:05

It is as if they want to be under the radar of the authorities,

0:37:050:37:10

for whatever reason.

0:37:100:37:12

And that is sometimes surprising,

0:37:120:37:14

bearing in mind the sheer scale of the money

0:37:140:37:17

that some of these people earn.

0:37:170:37:19

Illegal moneylending doesn't just happen in the poorest areas.

0:37:230:37:27

Calls to the team's hotline have uncovered information about more

0:37:270:37:30

loan sharking that has spread to the more affluent suburbs.

0:37:300:37:33

An undercover lead investigator and her team are armed with a warrant

0:37:350:37:39

for a raid on an unassuming terraced house.

0:37:390:37:41

So, we knew the background of all the people at those premises before

0:37:430:37:46

we went in, but as we're approaching the premises,

0:37:460:37:51

we're greeted by the loan shark's husband coming out

0:37:510:37:54

to put his bins out, in his dressing gown and his flip-flops.

0:37:540:37:57

Good morning, sir.

0:37:590:38:01

-Yes?

-Good morning, sir, my name's John, I'm a police officer of the

0:38:010:38:04

National Illegal Money Lending Team.

0:38:040:38:06

-Hi!

-Can we go inside your property, please...

-Er...

0:38:060:38:09

..instead of discussing on the drive of your property?

0:38:090:38:12

Sorry, on the...?

0:38:120:38:13

Can we come inside your house, please?

0:38:130:38:15

Yeah, sure. Why?

0:38:150:38:17

We've got a warrant to search your address.

0:38:170:38:18

Shall we go inside, sir, instead of doing this on the front drive, yeah?

0:38:190:38:22

Yeah.

0:38:220:38:23

Who else is in the property this morning?

0:38:270:38:29

-Pardon?

-Who else is inside your house this morning?

0:38:290:38:31

Erm, my wife and my son.

0:38:310:38:33

Can you ask your wife and your son to come downstairs, please?

0:38:330:38:36

DOG BARKS

0:38:360:38:38

Yeah, if you come downstairs, sir.

0:38:380:38:39

I can explain all when your wife comes down.

0:38:390:38:41

OK.

0:38:410:38:43

Thank you. Good morning.

0:38:430:38:45

Hello.

0:38:450:38:46

Do you want to come downstairs, love?

0:38:460:38:48

DOG CONTINUES TO BARK

0:38:480:38:50

Is there any chance you can put the dog in another room as well,

0:38:500:38:53

so I can speak clearly without the dog barking over the top of me?

0:38:530:38:56

-Jack, come here.

-Thank you.

0:38:560:38:58

Jack! Jack!

0:38:580:38:59

Now, we've got a warrant to search your address this morning

0:38:590:39:01

under the Consumer Credit Act.

0:39:010:39:03

We work for an agency that investigates illegal moneylenders, loan sharks.

0:39:030:39:07

So, before we do that, can I ask you, have you got any documentation,

0:39:070:39:11

any property that's going to relate to, like, the lending of money,

0:39:110:39:14

the illegal lending of money?

0:39:140:39:15

-No.

-No, OK.

0:39:170:39:19

We get families working together, particularly husband-and-wife teams,

0:39:190:39:23

and what we find is that one of them starts the business off and

0:39:230:39:26

the other one gets drawn into helping out in some way, collecting,

0:39:260:39:29

going and knocking on doors, asking for money.

0:39:290:39:31

All right. Have you got your mobile phone on you?

0:39:310:39:33

-SON:

-I don't, all my stuff's upstairs.

0:39:330:39:35

OK, we've got yours?

0:39:350:39:36

A lot of people under pressure go very quiet and stay very calm,

0:39:370:39:42

and they think, "Well, I don't know how I'm going to get out of this,"

0:39:420:39:45

and people are thinking of ways to get out of something.

0:39:450:39:48

You know, "What am I going to say? How am I going to say it?

0:39:480:39:52

"Who can I blame? It's not me, it's going to be somebody else."

0:39:520:39:55

So, thinking about the story they're going to deliver

0:39:550:39:57

at the end of the day when they're interviewed about it.

0:39:570:40:00

And the easiest thing to do is confess,

0:40:000:40:02

because it's good for the soul.

0:40:020:40:05

We've seen loan sharks that are the typical big, burly criminals

0:40:050:40:09

that bully their way round,

0:40:090:40:10

to people that pretend to be your best friend.

0:40:100:40:13

They try and justify what they've been doing, that they're some sort of community service

0:40:130:40:18

and they're not a community service.

0:40:180:40:20

What they are is people who are greedy and they're profiting

0:40:200:40:23

through emotional blackmail.

0:40:230:40:25

We're not there on a whim and a prayer.

0:40:260:40:28

We're there for a reason and we've satisfied ourselves

0:40:280:40:31

quite properly before we come into your house

0:40:310:40:35

that you are running a business and we're here to unravel your business.

0:40:350:40:38

And we are very good at it.

0:40:390:40:41

So, is there a PIN number to get into the computer or a SIM card

0:40:410:40:44

or anything like that?

0:40:440:40:45

When we interviewed them, the husband actually said,

0:40:450:40:48

"We'd thought about getting a consumer credit licence, but decided we weren't going to."

0:40:480:40:52

During the process of the search, we found a safe in their bedroom.

0:40:550:40:59

We can't open the safe or, for whatever reason,

0:40:590:41:02

they hadn't got the key.

0:41:020:41:03

And we had to get the person out to open the safe who would open

0:41:080:41:10

the safe on the premises and we managed to open the safe and I think

0:41:100:41:13

there was about £5,000 in there, along with some items of jewellery,

0:41:130:41:18

which she said were not all of her items of jewellery, so now we're in

0:41:180:41:21

the process of trying to track down the owners of that jewellery and

0:41:210:41:25

see if we can get that back to their rightful owners.

0:41:250:41:28

People think they're being so clever by trying to hide cash in certain

0:41:310:41:34

areas, but we always find the cash.

0:41:340:41:36

It's there to be found.

0:41:360:41:37

You uncover everything that goes with human beings, actually.

0:41:370:41:40

We've uncovered drug factories in lofts.

0:41:400:41:43

We uncover firearms.

0:41:430:41:45

We uncover pornography.

0:41:450:41:47

We uncover people trafficking.

0:41:470:41:49

You know, whatever humans are into.

0:41:490:41:51

You know, all sorts of things.

0:41:510:41:53

She had about 30 to 40 customers,

0:41:550:41:57

a substantial business which had grown over a number of years

0:41:570:42:01

and her husband clearly had a lot of knowledge about it.

0:42:010:42:04

While the team takes the suspects to the police station for questioning,

0:42:050:42:09

Tony demonstrates the spoils of another warrant that took place

0:42:090:42:12

the night before.

0:42:120:42:14

You can see how busy we are because, obviously, we've come straight from

0:42:140:42:18

that job to this job today.

0:42:180:42:20

This money now is all sealed up and it's going into

0:42:200:42:24

a safe store in the next few minutes.

0:42:240:42:26

We believe it's over £50,000.

0:42:260:42:29

This was just lying around his house.

0:42:290:42:31

There's a lack of education amongst loan sharks,

0:42:340:42:36

but there's certainly no lack of business acumen.

0:42:360:42:39

They know how to get money out of people,

0:42:390:42:42

they understand how the psychology of human beings work.

0:42:420:42:46

They understand about bringing pressure to bear in family groups.

0:42:460:42:50

You couldn't say there is one profile that would fit a loan shark,

0:42:500:42:53

other than they're all in business.

0:42:530:42:55

With a small team, they can't fight this war alone.

0:42:570:43:00

They have to rely heavily on outside agencies,

0:43:000:43:03

like the Citizens Advice Bureau, who fight their own daily battles on the

0:43:030:43:07

front line of indebted Britain.

0:43:070:43:08

We can go to CABs all over the country.

0:43:100:43:11

It's one of our key relationships, I'd say.

0:43:110:43:13

Housing, police, credit unions and debt advice are our, kind of,

0:43:130:43:17

four key areas that we drop in and maintain relationships, basically.

0:43:170:43:21

People do open up to CAB workers, so they're a really key

0:43:210:43:23

source of intelligence.

0:43:230:43:25

-TONY:

-With the small team that we've got,

0:43:250:43:27

we can't be expected to be everywhere.

0:43:270:43:29

Without our partner agencies, we would fail, but they've seen

0:43:290:43:32

the real benefits to the community when we take out a loan shark and,

0:43:320:43:36

as a result of that, everybody becomes passionate about it.

0:43:360:43:39

There is a victim of a loan shark

0:43:390:43:41

and there was some support needed there, so I just added...

0:43:410:43:45

I maybe see someone who I suspect a loan shark is dealing with

0:43:450:43:49

maybe once a month.

0:43:490:43:50

No-one says, "I've borrowed money from a loan shark."

0:43:500:43:54

It's always a friend or a relative,

0:43:540:43:57

and as we've become more aware of the activities of these people

0:43:570:44:01

in our town, we do delve a little bit deeper.

0:44:010:44:05

Sometimes people are struggling that much that they have to turn to them,

0:44:050:44:10

and this is why we try to raise awareness of what is out there -

0:44:100:44:14

to support them.

0:44:140:44:15

-CATH:

-Excuse me, have you got a second? I'm not selling anything.

0:44:180:44:20

Too cold, too cold.

0:44:200:44:22

In Stoke, 34% of people live in poverty.

0:44:230:44:27

With people so strapped for cash,

0:44:270:44:29

they become an easy target for loan sharks.

0:44:290:44:31

Cath's out raising awareness,

0:44:340:44:36

gathering any leads she can about illegal moneylenders in the area.

0:44:360:44:40

Nice one. Thank you very much, gents, cheers.

0:44:400:44:42

We must be mad, mustn't we?

0:44:440:44:45

This is dedication, this is!

0:44:450:44:47

So, we've moved from outside the shopping centre to inside

0:44:490:44:51

the bus station, so it's at least dry and we're all thawing out

0:44:510:44:53

a little bit now and people are a bit more willing to talk to us,

0:44:530:44:56

cos they're standing there waiting for a bus anyway and they're not freezing to death.

0:44:560:44:59

You've got 91 years' experience to share with us!

0:44:590:45:02

We've spoken to people today who know what loan sharks is

0:45:020:45:05

and I firmly believe that wouldn't have happened five years ago.

0:45:050:45:07

I would never, ever have a loan off a loan shark.

0:45:070:45:12

Those people want stamping out.

0:45:120:45:14

They all should be shot.

0:45:140:45:16

This is my view on it.

0:45:160:45:18

Someone said to me today, "They break your legs,"

0:45:180:45:20

and someone else said, "I'd never get in with them cos they come

0:45:200:45:22

"into your house and they take your stuff," and that's absolutely true.

0:45:220:45:25

So, I think it's brilliant, from our point of view, that people are

0:45:250:45:27

picking up the messages and saying, "No, no, I'd never use them."

0:45:270:45:30

It's important, what you're doing. I appreciate what you're doing.

0:45:300:45:33

Today, we've had someone come up to one of my colleagues and say that

0:45:330:45:35

he knows a loan shark.

0:45:350:45:37

He's given us the name, he's given us the nickname and also the estate

0:45:370:45:39

where he says the guy's working.

0:45:390:45:41

So, we can go away and check the name and the nickname against

0:45:410:45:43

our systems, we can check it against police systems and then,

0:45:430:45:47

even if, at worst, we just target that estate,

0:45:470:45:49

at least we know where we're going.

0:45:490:45:50

For a small team, the results are impressive,

0:45:540:45:57

but the battle against loan sharks is far from won.

0:45:570:46:00

They're also having to deal with a relocation,

0:46:000:46:02

funding cuts and reduced resources.

0:46:020:46:05

I've got a few things that I want to talk about.

0:46:050:46:07

First of all, the redundancies.

0:46:070:46:10

Clearly, we've got five staff that are leaving the organisation.

0:46:100:46:14

-Have we pencilled in the exit interviews?

-Yes, yes.

0:46:140:46:18

How's that gone down?

0:46:180:46:20

Erm, they were disappointed, but, obviously, they recognise that

0:46:200:46:23

there's only so much that we can do and we need to focus

0:46:230:46:27

on certain priorities.

0:46:270:46:28

We'll need to monitor to make sure that we don't overstretch staff

0:46:280:46:34

that may see it as having to pick up extra work.

0:46:340:46:37

If you lose any staff, or any resource,

0:46:370:46:40

clearly that has an impact.

0:46:400:46:41

Of course, I'm disappointed, because it has an impact on the outcomes

0:46:410:46:45

that you can produce, so it may take us slightly longer to get jobs done,

0:46:450:46:49

but, ultimately, I'm a realist and we're in times, at the moment,

0:46:490:46:53

where austerity bites,

0:46:530:46:54

but we will ensure that we look at everything and try and

0:46:540:46:59

take the most appropriate, proportionate action.

0:46:590:47:02

Police. Can you open the door, please?

0:47:130:47:15

The investigators carry on their fight to disrupt loan shark activity,

0:47:150:47:19

even if it's only possible to take them out one by one.

0:47:190:47:23

Please, why not...?

0:47:230:47:25

Why you are doing camera?

0:47:250:47:27

Huh? No, you come this way. This way.

0:47:270:47:29

We should not go by camera.

0:47:290:47:31

Right, so we're lost now, but I know it's around here somewhere.

0:47:330:47:36

Team solicitor Simon continues to pursue his cases all over England,

0:47:360:47:41

trying to maintain his 100% conviction rate

0:47:410:47:44

against the inevitable frustrations of the court system.

0:47:440:47:47

Unfortunately, the interpreter has been booked for tomorrow and,

0:47:470:47:51

as neither of us can attend tomorrow,

0:47:510:47:53

it's all been put off to next week, I'm afraid.

0:47:530:47:55

I still feel angry now and he's been locked up four years...

0:47:550:47:58

And Carol Highton, who helped to jail the loan shark

0:47:580:48:01

who hounded her son, has received an MBE for her public services.

0:48:010:48:06

It worries me because, today, it's getting so much worse,

0:48:060:48:10

especially with all the government changes coming in and everything.

0:48:100:48:14

There's going to be so many people now who are going to be stressed

0:48:140:48:18

to the max and going to get in so much debt because of all

0:48:180:48:22

these changes and they are going to go down the path of going

0:48:220:48:25

to these illegal lenders, because it's going to be the only way

0:48:250:48:29

that they're going to be able to survive.

0:48:290:48:31

MUSIC: Avenue Agnes by Obel

0:48:340:48:37

# What is wrong at the end of the day

0:48:510:48:55

# What is really wrong, no-one dares to say

0:48:550:49:00

# You know you're wrong

0:49:000:49:02

# When there's only one right... #

0:49:020:49:04

Documentary. As households struggle to make ends meet, illegal money lenders are preying on the vulnerable by encouraging them to take out unlicensed loans, charging huge interest rates and then using extreme levels of violence, intimidation and shame to make them pay.

This progamme hears from the victims who are still living with the terrifying consequences of their borrowing and meets some who are fighting back. While business is booming for the loan sharks, the work of the Illegal Money Lending Team has never been more urgent. We follow this small but dedicated team from the moment a call comes into the hotline, through intelligence gathering, dawn raids, arrests and convictions in their battle to stop loan sharks in their tracks.