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LOAN SHARK TEAM NET FIRST SUSPECT; Task force swoop in festive crackdown.

Byline: By Mark McGivern

A TASK force set up to tackle loan sharks have arrested their first target.

And they have more than 30 other illegal money-lenders all over Scotland in their sights in the run-up to Christmas.

The pounds 1million Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit, set up after a Record campaign, made their first swoop after a surveillance operation in Lanarkshire.

A source in the unit said yesterday: 'These people make their money out of the desperation of others.

'At Christmas, those who have little cash have nowhere to turn and illegal money-lenders are always happy to step in.

'The reality is the borrower could be paying next Christmas for a few presents this year.

'A loan of pounds 10 or pounds 20 can end up much higher once the ridiculous amounts of interest are applied. Often, the money is extorted from people with extreme violence.'

The source added: 'The Record's campaign was instrumental in highlighting the huge extent of the problem.

'We are continuing that work with genuine resources and we will be making more arrests in due course.'

Cases vary from low-level sharks who terrrorise deprived estates to crooks who operate at business level.

Investigators can now use the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize the sharks' assets if they can prove it is likely they were illegally obtained.

The source went on: 'If they can prove they are honest, there is no problem but we will target those we know have benefited from crime.'

The Scots project is one of two pilot schemes by the Department of Trade and Industry. It is made up of former police officers, fraud investigators and trading standards experts.

Anyone can report loan sharks by calling Crime- stoppers on 0800 555111 or the Scottish Illegal Money Lending Unit on01412876655. #A report has been sent to the procurator fiscal after a 33-year-old man was arrested in the Lanarkshire area on suspicion of breaches of the Consumer Credit Act.

RECORD VIEW: Page Eight

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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Dec 22, 2004
Words:335
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