A Zimbabwean woman, Tecla Bandawe, aged 44, appeared before Birmingham Crown Court on Friday and received a suspended prison sentence after admitting to illegal money lending.
She was caught with a GBP350,000 lumpsum ledger.
The case was prosecuted by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), in collaboration with Birmingham City Council Trading Standards and West Midlands Police.
The court heard that a warrant was executed at Bandawe’s residence on Soho Road, Handsworth, in March this year after allegations were made through the IMLT’s confidential hotline, suggesting she was operating as an illegal money lender. Bandawe, a Zimbabwean national employed as a carer, was found to be part of a WhatsApp group with fellow Zimbabweans, and messages linked her to lending activities.
Prosecutor Mr. Simon Mortimer revealed that starting from 2020, Bandawe had sent over 1,000 separate loans to at least 60 different people, totaling £350,000, despite lacking authorization from the Financial Conduct Authority. She charged interest rates ranging from 10% to 20% on each capital advance, with loan durations typically spanning one to four weeks.
Over the period, Bandawe received over £375,000 in payments into her bank accounts, believed to be loan repayments. Recorder Balraj Bhatia KC noted that the borrowers were financially vulnerable, and the case had crossed the custody threshold. However, he considered Bandawe’s previous good character and guilty plea, sentencing her to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, with no attached conditions. There were no applications for costs or a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, Tony Quigley, emphasized the importance of avoiding predatory illegal lenders, urging those in need of affordable credit to consider credit unions as a viable alternative. Councillor Philip Davis, chair of Birmingham City Council’s licensing and public protection committee, echoed these sentiments, stating that illegal money lenders prey on the vulnerable, and the City Council remains committed to working with the national Illegal Money Lending Team to combat this crime.- Agencies