A LOAN shark whose enterprise within London's Filipino community made an annual profit of over £390,000 has been jailed.
Heide Wahida Baker, 44, of Bourne Avenue, Hayes, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment at Isleworth Crown Court last Friday (March 12) after admitting to two counts of money laundering, illegal money lending, fraud and two counts of illegally possessing people's passports.
Baker lent money to people in some of London's poor Filipino communities with victims in , Barnet, Fulham, Southwark and Redbridge, and her 'business' was said to have raked in a massive £393,000 in 2008, shortly before she was prosecuted.
Prior to handing over the money, she gave a number of her victims a document to sign which falsely claimed that the transaction was being done in association with the Phillipine Embassy and was therefore governed by Philippine law.
When her property was searched last February, these forged official documents were found, along with passports taken from some of her victims as 'security'.
The court heard how each transaction carried with it a 100 per cent mark-up, although the figures varied between transactions and interest rates peaked at over 200 per cent on some occasions.
One of Baker’s 'clients' borrowed £500 but was told that she was responsible for a £1,600 loan given to a relative. Her 'debt' was increased to £2,100 with monthly interest charges of £210. This victim was forced to hand over her passport as security as well as her savings account card and PIN, from which Baker took £350.
Judge McGregor Johnson said that he took the fact that it was Baker's first offence into consideration but was undeterred in handing down the custodial sentence.
He said: "Based on the way you were operating, the term loan shark is an accurate one."
"You were lending money to people who couldn't obtain credit elsewhere, and you were able to charge them extortionate rates of interest.
"You drew up fraudulent documents designed to reassure your victims, and these are all unattractive features in this case."
"You did this not for friends as you continue to allege; you did it purely for profit."
She was sentenced to 15 months for illegal lending and money laundering, 12 months for fraud and 9 months for the illegal possession of passports. All sentences are to be served concurrently.
Baker was investigated and prosecuted by the London Trading Standards , in partnership with Hillingdon council , and Peter Richardson, manager of London's illegal money lending team, said: “This is a great result for the victims who came forward and it should give communities in London the confidence that we will help and continue to bring these loan sharks to justice."