[Update 22/01/2014 - Anyone concerned with proceedings brought by Mr Ghopee under any company name should see this new post]
Since our post on Barons Finance Limited, we’ve heard various things about the property and landlord related activities of Barons Finance and assorted other companies under the control of Dharam Prakash Gopee. As it appears that Mr Gopee has on at least one occasion continued to pursue proceedings (including appearing in the appeal permission in the last post) for Barons Finance Limited, despite the company having been wound up and a liquidator having been appointed by the Court, we hope this post might be of use for people acting for Defendants in possession proceedings, duty scheme advisers and hopefully members of the judiciary who are unaware of the relevant court decisions and orders.
It is also a tale of the kind of things that go on when people are desperate and the people who prey on that.
As we have seen, Barons Finance Limited has been found to have been making secured loans in a form outside the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and therefore unenforceable. The loans were, at least in some instances, at a high rate of interest, such that the monthly payments were effectively the same as the interest. Barons Finance Limited has been bringing possession proceedings against defaulting borrowers. Apparently a number of these cases have been brought together in the Mercantile Court – and we are keen for more details of this.
The OFT and Consumer Credit Appeals Tribunal have determined that Barons Finance Limited was controlled by a director, Mr Dharam Prakash Gopee. Mr D P Gopee (for there is another Mr Gopee involved) apparently often appears for Barons Finance (and other companies, as we’ll see) in court proceedings. Mr D P Gopeee is also a director of a raft of other companies, at least some of which will feature as we go on.
In unravelling all of this, a place to start is the Consumer Credit Appeals Tribunal decision in CCA/2011/0004 and CCA/2011/0005 Appeals by Barons Bridging Finance 1 Limited and Reddy Corporation.
What this judgment makes clear is that of all of Mr Gopee’s companies, only Reddy Corporation had a consumer credit licence. That licence was revoked on 19 April 2011 and the appeal process expired on 18 August 2012. The associated companies named in the judgment are Ghana Commercial Bunks Limited (now known as Ghana Commercial Finance Limited), Barons Finance Limited, Barons Bridging Finance Limited, Barons Bridging Finance Public Limited Company, Moneylink Finance Limited and Barons Bridging Finance 1 Limited. All of these companies were found to have engaged in ‘unlicensed trading’ – making loans, usually secured on property/homes – and at least the majority of these were
defective because of the failure to comply with sections 60 and 61 of the CCA
and then, addressing the circumstances in which the loans were made:
the clientele of entities such as the Appellants are likely to be people who are in financial difficulties or those who are otherwise unable to obtain traditional credit resources from the usual outlets such as banks. It is all the more important, therefore, that the Appellants and their associates as well as their controller in the person of Mr Gopee properly adhere to the duties and obligations required of them under the CCA.
In the hearing before the Tribunal, Mr Gopee confirmed that 75% of the loans extended by BBF, BFL and Ghana Bunks as associates and agents and alleged agents of Reddy, are to individuals seeking credit in order to stave off repossessions. The Tribunal agrees that represents strong evidence that the majority of the people to whom these businesses extend credits are themselves in financial straits.
It appears, then, that there are a substantial number of companies of which Mr Gopee is a director, and which are under his control, that have made loan agreements in ways which do not comply with the requirements of the CCA – in the absence of required information, or payment schedules and terms, in breach of
sections 60 and 61 of the CCA and in particular the Consumer Credit (Agreements) Regulations 1983 (CCARs).
– and/or made by an entity which was not licensed to enter such loan agreements.
Mr Gopee’s argument that all these other companies were ‘agents’ for Reddy Corporation was not accepted by the Tribunal or indeed by the Court of Appeal in Barons Finance Limited and Reddy Corporation Limited v Amir Ul Haq  EWCA Civ 595. As the Tribunal puts it:
The Tribunal therefore, is of the firm view and duly finds with regard to the various reported agency agreements which have been said to be formerly in existence and which apparently continue to be used in some form or other, that no reliance can be placed on the existence of any claimed agency agreement or arrangement.
This has apparently been going on for some considerable period of time, over 11 years. The Tribunal judgment also notes another couple of companies under Mr Gopee’s control, Halifax Business Finance Limited and Halifax Repossessions Limited, but these seem to be no longer in existence. We should also note another director of some of the companies, Rajav Prakash Gopee, who is Mr Gopee’s son and, according to this record, a company director from the remarkable age of 13.
A full list of current companies in which Mr Gopee senior is a director, and/or which are raised in the Tribunal judgment is below, complete with registered office addresses – which aren’t always the addresses used…
So,the situation looks like this:
i) A loan made to private individuals by any of Mr Gopee’s companies, save Reddy Corporation, is very likely to have been invalid and unenforceable as not made by a company licensed to undertake regulated agreements and
none of these companies has applied for an order under section 40 of the CCA before seeking to enforce agreements entered into.
ii) A loan made by any of the companies, including Reddy Corporation, is very likely to be unenforceable as the agreement will not fulfil the requirements of the CCA as the necessary information will not have been provided, typically, no details of loan period and payment schedule, amongst other defects. Companies had sought to enforce such agreements
which fail to comply with section 60(1) of the CCA as well as with the CCARs without the previous obtaining of an enforcement order under section 65 of the CCA.
iii) Barons Finance Limited was wound up in the Manchester District Registry on 19 September 2012 (for unpaid legal costs by opponents) and no proceedings involving Barons Finance Limited could lawfully go ahead after that date without the agreement of the liquidator. (The registered office of Barons Finance Limited is now a Manchester address which appears to be the liquidator’s).
So, the list of currently (or recently) active companies:
Barons Bridging Finance 1 Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Barons Finance 1 Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Moneylink Finance Limited (Reg Office 169A PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Pangold Investments Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Note this company is described as dissolved here, and under strike off proceedings as of 9 December 2012 here, but we have heard of active proceedings in the name of Pangold. This may be Pangold Estate Limited. See below)
Pangold Estate Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Barons Finance 1 Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Ghana Commercial Bunk Limited (Yes, bunk) (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Barons Bridging Finance Public Limited Company (Not a plc) (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Reddy Corporation Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
Ghana Commercial Finance Limited (Reg Office 169 PERRY VALE, LONDON, ENGLAND, SE23 2JD)
It is also worth noting that Halifax Repossessions and Halifax Business Finance had registered offices in the Southend area, one as PO Box 5467, Southend-on-Sea, SS0 9GY, the other as Gopee Business Centre, 9 St Vincent’s Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, SS0 7BP. In various forms of ‘Credit Agreement’, the address of both Ghana Bunks and Barons Finance Limited has been given as ‘PO Box 5467, Southend-on-Sea, SS0 9GY’, though neither was registered there.
It appears that as well as 169 Perry Vale SE23 2JD (And 169A Perry Vale), the Southend addresses also get used by Mr Gopee’s companies’ ‘credit agreement’ documents, though these are not the registered addresses (e.g for Reddy Corporation and Ghana Bunks).
So there we are. A mass of different companies, some allegedly operating as agents for the one company that had a consumer credit licence, (but this was found by both the Court of Appeal and the First Tier Tribunal to be a sham), making loans to people in desperate circumstances, secured on their homes. The agreements were/are generally defective in failing to meet the requirements of the CCA, as well as being entered by companies that had no licence to do so.
From what we have been told, Mr Gopee remains active in pursuing possession and eviction proceedings, often appearing on behalf of the companies he controls, and even in seeking to stay or prevent possession proceedings by lenders who hold the first charge.
From the Tribunal decision, the Court of Appeal decision, the permission to appeal decision in the High Court in our first report, it is clear that it is at least likely that the agreements and charges that Mr Gopee’s companies rely on are unenforceable. Anyone dealing with secured loan possession proceedings should be aware of this.