What a tangled web…

[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 That licence was revoked on 19 April 2011 and the appeal process expired on 18 August 2012.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.

And:

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 [2003] 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.

About Giles Peaker

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts, and still is Nearly Legal on Google +.
Posted in Housing law - All, Mortgage possession, Possession, Uncategorized.

63 Comments

  1. The registered office at 169 Perry Vale SE23 is a semi derelict and empty building. Land registry tells us me is owned by Pangold Estates C/o Barons Finance and also Montgomery Associates, also of SE23 and with a number of charges under Gopee company names including a new one on me Pinemarsh Estates of 169a Perry Vale, that was dissolved in 2010

    • The property iin Westcliff, Southend, is a rather tatty semi, according to google streetview. I have had a look at the Land Registry entry yet. I didn’t include comnpanies that had been dissolved for a while in the list . Perhaps I should have done. Who knows, they could still be pursuing proceedings ;-)

    • Yes indeedy, I fond many companies still trade under dissolved status

      I’ve got messages out to my council’s various money advice agencies and have alerted southend council too. I’ll report on anything that comes back

    • [Edited by J – please don’t link to websites providing high cost loans]

    • you are right, I recently was sent a letter by Ghana financial bunks asking for money and have also increased outstanding owed from £1600.00 to £45,000.00 plus what can I do as I do believe that the company no longer operates.
      can someone help to deal with all the mess created by this man. Many people are affected.
      Please help.

    • You will see from this thread you will see that Ghana Bunks does not have, and has never had, an OFT consumer credit licence. The agreeement is, therefore, unenforceable.

      The agreement is also very probably ‘improperly’ executed, i.e. not drawn up as requied by the Consumer Credit Act. If this is the case, the agreement is irredeemably unenforceable if it was made before 6.4.17, or enforceable only on an order of the court if it was made on or after this date.

      If you wish to challnge the enforceability of the agreement, you will need legal advice. However, as a first step, you could go to a CAB and ask the adviser to contact Specialist Support who could provide more information.

    • There are a number of different companies with variants on Ghana Bunks in the name. While it is quite possible that any consumer credit agreements with any of those variants is unenforceable, I wouldn’t want to state that with 100% certainty. Seeking Specialist Support advice via a CAB would be a very good idea. If there are ongoing court proceedings, advice should be sought urgently.

  2. I work at Citizens Advice Specialist Support and have had an interest in Barons Finance and the Reddy Corporation for the last two years or so.

    I have never come across a loan that has been made in the sole name of Reddy. However, should there be any such loans, they are unenforceable under s40(1) CCA 74 because Reddy does not currently have a licence to carry on a consumer credit business.

    Barons’ agreements are also unenforceable under s40(1) and, in addition, are unenforceable under s40(1A) because it did not have a licence when its agreements were made.

    However, although agreements are unenforceable due to the licensing issues, it appears that Barons can wait until the properties upon which they are secured are sold and recover what it is owed from the proceeds of sale.

    Had Barons applied for permission from the OFT to enforce the unlicensed agreements under s40(2), the OFT has said that it could have ‘de-securitised’ the agreements. However, no application was made, apparently leaving the OFT powerless to do anything about the security provided under the agreements. I have asked the OFT about prosecuting Gopee for unlicensed lending but got what amounts to a ‘no comment’ response. I think that there could also probably be a prosecution under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008

    All Barons agreements that I have seen are improperly executed for numerous reasons, especially their failure to state how the loans are to be repaid, a prescribed term under Schedule 6 to the Consumer Credit (Agreements) Regulations. This is because the monthly payment stated on the agreements is only for interest with no payments of capital provided for.

    The lack of this prescribed term means that all agreements made before 6 April 7007 are irredeemably unenforceable under s127(3). Also, where the court makes a declaration of unenforceability under s142, s113(3) is invoked that applies s106, under which the security is rendered void.

    Also, where the agreements included a broker’s fee, it is arguable that they fail properly to state the amount of credit, another prescribed term under Schedule 6.

    However, agreements made on or after 6 April 2007 cannot be irredeemably unenforceable but are, instead, enforceable only on an order of the court.

    This was the situation in Barons Finance Ltd v Olubisi (Mayor’s and City of London Court, 26 April 2010, unreported), an appeal from the possession order made by a district judge at Lambeth County Court. The appeal held that agreement, which was made after 6 April 2007, was improperly executed and gave rise to an unfair relationship under s140A. However, the court declined to write off the loan because Ms Olubisi had benefited from it by using it to pay her first mortgage arrears and avoid being repossessed, although it appropriated all the payments that had been made to capital, reduced the interest rate and set an affordable repayment.

    While Barons Finance Ltd has been wound up, it has subsequently become clear from the Liquidator that the Barons’ loan book was transferred by Mr Gopee to another of his companies prior to the Liquidation. The Liquidator has indicated that he feels he is able to challenge this transfer (I assume as an undervalue transaction) although it appears that no challenge has yet been made.

    I am currently involved in a case where Barons Finance Ltd is trying to enforce an old possession order with a warrant for possession. The borrower has applied for the possession claim to be struck out (see Barons Bridging Finance plc (2) Reddy Corporation Ltd v Nnadiekwe) and for a declaration of unenforceability (the loan was made before 6 April 2007). The hearing on 12 February was adjourned to allow Barons time to prepare its response and is now due on 1 March in Lambeth County Court. Unfortunately, the client will not be represented at the hearing (unless the duty solicitor can help) but has been assisted with his application and witness statements exhibiting the Tribunal decision, Makanju, Ul Haq and Olubisi. This was all done in a bit of a hurry due to the impending execution of the warrant and the court may, of course, require an applcation for a late appeal to be made.

    Also, the court has been alerted generally to the issues involved with Barons as there are apparently a number of other cases in the court where Barons are trying to enforce old possession orders.

    It would be very useful to have more information about the cases being brought in the Mercantile Court.

    Anyone coming across any cases where Barons Finance, Reddy Corporation, Ghana Bunks or Barons Bridging Finance etc. are attempting to enforce their agreements should report this to Emma Fox, Deputy Head of the Secured Lending Team at the OFT (Emma.Fox@oft.gsi.gov.uk).

    Guy Skipwith

    Citizens Advice Specialist Support

    PS for a case involving a dispute between Barons Finance Ltd and another secured lender relating to the priority of their respective charges, see Barons Finance v Kensington Mortgage Co Ltd [2011] EWCA Civ 1592.

    • I have tried to email Emma for some assistance but is bounced back. Is there another way to contact you please?

    • I am happy for you to email me directly but do not really want my email address to be published on the site.

      Therefore I have asked Nearly Legal to pass it on to you.

      Cheers

      Guy

    • Barons Finance Ltd – judgment set aside despite stay

      A victim of Barons Finance Ltd (BFL) contacted me via the Nearly Legal website.

      As regular readers of Nearly Legal will know, following the service of a winding up petition on BFL but before the company was wound up, Dharam Prakash Gopee, the owner of BFL, purported to transfer the BFL loan book to other companies that he owned. As a result, all cases involving BFL have been, or should be, stayed pending investigation by the transfers by the BFL liquidator.

      John works in IT in the financial services sector. In 2008, his parents signed a secured loan with BFL, and John purportedly co-signed the agreement, something he denies. At the time, the HR department at the bank where he worked told him that a routine screening check revealed that a CCJ had been entered against him by BFL. This was the first he knew about the CCJ and assumed that it must have been a mistake caused by he and his father sharing the same initials and surname.

      He was advised to apply to set aside the judgment and he did so, asking the court to deal with the application without a hearing and thought that this was the end of the matter. His employer was happy and John was subsequently able to get a mortgage and other credit. He was made redundant in early 2013 and was subsequently offered another job in October 2013. However, the offer was withdrawn when he failed a security screening because the CCJ was still on his credit file.

      In December 2013 John contacted the county court to which the set aside application was made in 2008 and was told that application had not be heard. This was because the court had tried to contact him but had mistakenly written to his father and had not listed the application for hearing in the absence of a response. The application was then relisted for hearing on 3 January 2014. At the hearing, Gopee filed a witness statement stating that John had signed the agreement in his presence, BFL was now in liquidation and its loan book had been transferred. The hearing was adjourned to 25 March for Gopee to produce evidence of the transfer but was vacated following the transfer of the case to HHJ Mackie QC in Mercantile Court in London.

      John contacted the Mercantile Court and eventually, after problems relating to his address, the case number and correspondence once again being sent to his father, he was eventually told that he should submit a new set aside application, which he did. The grounds for the application were that: he had not signed the agreement; the agreement was unenforceable because BFL was an unlicensed lender and because it was improperly executed; and that it gave rise to an unfair relationship. Because John had been offered another job, subject to a security screening, an expedited hearing was requested and a hearing date set for 17 June 2014.

      Before the application was made, contact was with the liquidator to request agreement to the stay being lifted. However, the liquidator said that there were no funds in the pot and that his solicitor would look into the request but that John would have to pay the solicitor’s charges of £400, which he could not afford. The application was made anyway and the liquidator’s solicitor informed.

      At the hearing John appeared in person and Gopee appeared for ‘a non-party’ (presumably on behalf of the company to which the loan was purportedly transferred). The liquidator did not appear or make any submissions to the court.

      I do not have full details of the hearing before HHJ Mackie QC but, apparently:

      • Gopee said that the loans had been transferred but HHJ Mackie responded by stating that Gopee knew ‘too well that these transactions are fraudulent’, saying ‘Mr Gopee you are more intelligent than this, you know these transactions are fraudulent and we’ve been over this before’.

      • Gopee said that regardless of the fact that none of his companies had consumer credit licenses and the agreements were improperly executed, he was entitled to recover the money on the basis of ‘restitution of gains’. HHJ Mackie apparently got irate at this stage and dismissed Gopee’s arguments, after which he did not have much more to say

      • HHJ Mackie said that he was concerned that there was more fraudulent activity going on and after he had set the judgment aside, asked John what his losses were, saying that he might want to bring a claim against Gopee but suggested that he should ‘get on with his life’ and wished him good luck.

      Fortunately, John’s job offer was kept open and following the set aside, he was able to take the job.

      This case illustrates that, where appropriate, HHJ Mackie QC is prepared to set aside BFL judgments that have been stayed, or should be stayed, without the agreement of the liquidator. This could be appropriate, for example, when BFL borrowers want to sell their homes without having to repay unenforceable BFL loans or where borrowers are facing repossession by first mortgage lenders and unenforceable BFL loans would be paid from the proceeds of sale.

      …………………………

      Not selling repossessed house

      In another case, BFL repossessed a borrower’s home. Since the repossession it appears that nothing has been done to market or sell the property; instead, it has been rented. The company to which the loan was purportedly transferred has been paying the client’s first mortgage, with the lender apparently unaware that the property has been repossessed.

      More details in due course when these are available.

  3. Pingback: Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #96

  4. Unfortunately, it isn’t just people taking loans [edited by NL] who suffer. My daughter and two friends (students in their final year) rented 1 Tanners Mews, Deptford, London from a letting agent called Sol Properties. They handed over the deposit and the first months rent in good faith and signed their tenancy agreement. The landlord, Mr Gopee of Pangold ltd, was registered to Southend. Despite various repairs not being done the tenancy continued and they paid their rent. On 7th Dec 2012 they received a letter from Bank of Scotland informing them that there was to be an eviction. They were advised to stop paying rent and prepare for the eviction. Naturally we went to court but we discovered that the tenancy was illegal from the start. They were evicted on 18th February 2013 and are now homeless. There is no help for them, even the police wouldn’t help when [edited by NL] threatened to evict them illegally.

    Mr Gopee only put their deposit in a scheme on 14th Dec 2012, 5 MONTHS after the tenancy began because he was pressured to do so, and he is now saying that because they stopped paying rent AFTER BofS was given an outright possession of the property in November 2012., he won’t give them back their deposit.

    I am a law abiding citizen and I can’t begin to understand how this man has been able to continue with this [edited by NL] for so many years, without any consequences or penalty and as we were told by the letting agent of Sol Properties Mr Gopee ownes and rents out other properties in this country, [edited by NL]

    Mr Gopee is well known at Bromley County Court by judges, barristers and housing advice workers alike, and yet he continues without restraint.

    My daughter and friends have been devastated by these events, they have been lied to, threatened and are now homeless but he doesn’t care and apart from a man called Ben in a housing advice center in Lewisham, nor does anyone else. [Edited by NL]

    I also think Companies House should ban him and his associates from owning any ltd company which enable him to hide behind the limited status. It brings the whole process into disrepute and they should have a system of blocking certain people especially [edited by NL].

    [NL – I’ve edited this comment. While as should be clear, we are hardly fans of the practices of many of Mr Gopee’s companies and are happy to highlight any findings against them, by Court or Tribunal, we cannot put allegations that have not been upheld by a Court or Tribunal on the blog.]

  5. I’m an insolvency solicitor by trade. I’ve loved the work of this blog generally for some time and thought it might assist to mention acouple of insolvency aspects.

    I’ve just had a look on Companies house and the liquidator of Barons Finance Ltd appears to have had his release in September 2012.

    Liquidators often bring (and even post Jackson have a 3 year exemption so they can still use a conditional, not contingent, fee agreement) claims for transaction at undervalue and misfeasance/breach of fiduciary duty under ss 212, 238 and 239 of the Insolvency Act 1986.

    However, more importantly, given the plethora of companies with apparent similar names to that which was liquidated, (i.e Baron), it might be worth considering the potential criminal offence committed/personal liaibility under ss 216 and 217 IA86 for a director of a liquidating company who is involved with a company of similar name. The Companies Investigation Branch of the Insolvency Service deal with such complaints.

    Hope this helps.

    • Thanks Howard. I have had contact with solicitors for the liquidator and also seen other subsequent court docs in a case. Mr Gopee affects to have transferred the loan book and charges held by Barons Finance to Barons Bridging Finance 1 Limited and Reddy Corp and is still pursuing cases (or trying to) on that basis, applying to substitute claimants. These transfers apparently happened after the winding up petition was issued in May 2012, thus not very lawful… I understand that the liquidator is not very impressed.

    • if the transfers happened post issue of a winding up petition, each transfer will be a void disposition pursuant to s127 IA86 and will be void against the liquidator unless ratified by the Court (retrospective ratification highly unlikely unless proper consideration was paid and failure to seek ratification from the court at the time was a genuine oversight).

      If each transfer was a void disposition then this will not automatically prevent enforcement of a loan, but any amounts under loans should be paid to the liquidator who can give good receipt. The liquidator is of course an officer of court and obliged to conduct himself as such.

      The liquidator has his own duty to report any concerns to the SoS at BIS so disqualification proceedings can be considered if appropriate. This is wholly separate to the jurisdiction under ss216/217.

      I’m sure the liquidator might have his own advice and advisors, but I’d be happy to try and help if that would be desirable/appropriate.

      Clearly, anyone who faces an attempt by the director to substitute claimants as you describe might want to consider these points. The Court would, at minimum, potentially want to hear from the liquidator before substituting any such claimants.

    • Howard,

      Yes, the liquidator’s solicitor is clearly of the view that they are void. They are staying any and all proceedings that they are aware of by writing to the court.

  6. I will be very interested in any update on
    court cases involving Mr Gopee as I am
    an affected person of his sham agreement .

    • If Mr Gopee is pursuing a case against you, please contact me via the email on the ‘About’ page.

    • The web gets even more tangled

      I have come across a new way that Gopee of Barons Finance and associated companies is trying to get around the fact that none of the companies have CCA licenses to lend to individuals.

      In the case I have seen, it seems to work like this:

      1. One of Gopee’s companies, in this case Ghana Commercial Bunks Ltd, buys a client’s property for £6,300.

      2. The ‘sale’ agreement states that Ghana Bunks has borrowed £6,300 from Barons Bridging Finance PLC, that £5,000 of this is paid to the client, with £250 paid to a named third party via a specified Lloyds account, with the balance covering Barons Bridging’s admin costs of £1,050 (which is presumably paid to barons Bridging although this is not stated).

      It also states that Ghana Bunks is paying interest at 3.5% on its loan from Barons Bridging, amounting to £220.50 per month and that the loan is repayable on demand.

      3. The client is given an option to re-purchase his property for £1 (one pound) providing that that he makes the payments due under the loan made by Barons Bridging to Ghana Bunks.

      As above, this seems to me to be a way of indirectly lending money to a borrower without there actually being a loan agreement with the client to get around the fact that none of Gopee’s companies have CCA licenses but I am not really sure how to approach it.

      Any thoughts appreciated.

      Guy Skipwith

      Citizens Advice Specialist Support

    • Hi Guy/Giles,

      My friends have been caught by Gopee’s web. They did exactly what Guy listed above. They were selling the property to get rid of the debt and finance other needs, but shortly before exchange they received Restraint Order from FCA on Gopee’s assets. Do you see any way they can sell the property? Can any mechanism be created so that they can sell, then put Gopee’s amount to an account controlled by the Judge so he can’t escape? It’s very good to investigate and stop Gopee but it seems to create an impact to his victims too.

      Thanks,
      George

    • Thanks Gile. Can you give me more details about Specialist advise please. Is available from Citizens Advice Specialist Support or at an advice centre (at civic centre?) or go to a Law Centre (which one? Can you give a list?) I have limited knowledge about legal issues. What I did was just googling. Many thanks to Nearly Legal!

    • Hi Giles, To put it in simple terms, seeking specialist advice meaning starting legal route, applying to the court for lifting the charge at Land registry similarly to the case of enabling two sisters to sell their home (Rowland in May 2014) (as mentioned in 31/7/14 Judgement)? Grateful for your advice.

    • I can’t advise. I don’t think the Citizens Advice Specialist unit is working on these matters any more. It is complex so probably beyond an advice centre. Certainly worth trying a law centre – look for the local one. I suspect they will need a solicitor and I am afraid it is likely to cost as unlikely to be covered by legal aid. I can’t help you look for a solicitor, I’m afraid.

    • Hi all

      Has anyone been able to find solicitor who can help in going to court to release charges placed on properties by Mr Goopee of Baron Finance.

      I need to do this urgently.

    • Hi

      Can’t help with that here, I’m afraid.

      Also, it appears that as of 23 September 2015, a lot of Gopee’s Companies were put into provisional liquidation on the application of the Secretary of State Business Innovation & Skills. I’m not sure what that will mean for the Gopee litigation, but will possibly complicate it.

  7. hi can a company registered as dormant be legally active like taking one to court pls advise ie PANGOLD ESTATE LIMITED One of MR GOPEE’S

  8. hi Giles i have a copy of a judgement issued on the 19th of July 2013 by JUDGE MACKIE QC Stoping mr ghopee from bring or continuing any lagal proceeding in any county court to recover money due or to seek possession of any property without first obtaining an Order from the london mercantile court permitting him to do so

  9. I have a tenant that seems to have been caught up in the Ghopee web. She is under the impression that he repossessed her property yet her name remains on the property register.
    Several of the Ghopee companies are listed on the title deeds as restrictions and charges and I wondered if the repossession was legal.
    Who is the best person for her to speak to about this and pick through her complex financial history?

    • I have just taken over the service charge management of a block flats in Stratford. Pangold Estates Limited ( a dormant company trading since at least 2007 although incorporated 2010?) are the landlords on the AST of one of the flats although the leaseholder is an individual. The mortgage is still in the name of the leaseholder and is being paid by Mr Gopeee I presume. Upon speaking to Mr Gopeee he said he was the owner of the flat yet his name doesn’t appear on the land registry extract. When I asked for the Lessees details and his whereabouts Gopeee said you will never be able to find him. I have asked for legal documents or court order as proof at which he accused me of harassment

      Newham operate a landlord licensing scheme yet there is no licence in place and it is now apparent why. I have now written to the Freeholder’s Solicitors requesting further investigate.

      If anyone would like to share information please feel free to call me on 07825051112

  10. The (in)famous Mr Gopee of Barons Finance Ltd (and others) has been disqualified from being a company director for 15 years – see https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/disqualified-officers/natural/x6UBMxayOrQ1bAs8B2Ualf9CWQ4

    In addition, it appears that the Insolvency Service is winding up all Gopee companies in the public interest, for example, see https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08756228/filing-history, with a contested hearing apparently due in October.

    The Barons Finance Ltd liquidator’s challenge to the BFL transfer of its loan book to other Gopee companies was successful in the High Court. However, Gopee appealed on the grounds that his witness statement, which was filed late, should not have been excluded. His appeal was allowed, with the case returned to the High Court to be re-heard.

    Given all of this, where someone has a charge registered against her/his properly to secure an unlicensed and unenforceable agreement with BFL (that was allegedly assigned to Speedy Bridging Finance) and wishes to sell the properly, how can s/he go about getting the charge removed?

    Any ideas welcomed.

    Guy

    • No idea. Had been wondering that myself. One has to hope for a mass disclaimer by the liquidator when appointed, but in the meantime…

  11. Gopee is (finally) being prosecuted by the FCA.

    “FCA takes first criminal action against an individual acting as unlicensed consumer credit lender
    Press Releases Published: 17/01/2017

    Mr Dharam Prakash Gopee has today, 17 January 2017, appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court charged with offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. These charges arise from an investigation carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into Mr Gopee and companies he controls including Reddy Corporation Ltd, Speedy Bridging Finance Ltd and Barons Finance Ltd.

    It is alleged that Mr Gopee operated as an unlicensed consumer credit lender. He conducted regulated activity without authorisation over a numbers of years by entering into and administrating regulated credit agreements as a lender. This type of financial service was previously licensed by the Office of Fair Trading until 1 April 2014, when it became regulated by the FCA. This is the first time that the FCA has taken criminal action in a case related to its consumer credit powers.

    Mr Gopee acted as a lender of last resort and is alleged to have engaged with consumers who were often in difficult circumstances. He regularly registered charges over the homes of borrowers to enable him to take possession of a property if the borrower failed to pay the debt.

    Mr Gopee is believed to have lent in excess of £1 million over the last four years, whilst neither in possession of a consumer credit licence from the OFT, or equivalent authorisation by the FCA.

    The case against Mr Gopee was sent to Southwark Crown Court for trial, and a Plea and Trial Preparation Hearing is provisionally listed to be heard on 14 February 2017.”

    http://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-takes-first-criminal-action-against-individual-acting-unlicensed-consumer

  12. Today (8 Feb) Gopee was convicted of two charges of unlicensed lending and two charges of unauthorised lending. Sentencing due tomorrow

  13. See FCA press release from 8.2.18 ….

    ‘The trial of Dharam Prakash Gopee concluded today at Southwark Crown Court with the jury returning a guilty verdict to the charges brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

    The trial of Dharam Prakash Gopee concluded today at Southwark Crown Court with the jury returning a guilty verdict to the charges brought by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for offences under the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000.

    Mr Gopee described himself as “a lender of last resort” and engaged with consumers who were often vulnerable and in difficult circumstances. He regularly registered charges over the homes of borrowers to enable him to take possession of a property if the borrower failed to pay the debt.

    The offences related to Mr Gopee’s operation of money lending businesses from August 2012 to December 2016 despite neither having a consumer credit licence from the OFT, nor any authorisation from the FCA.

    During the period from August 2012 to December 2016, he entered into 147 new credit agreements with new consumers, for sums totalling over £1,000,000. He also continued to collect on pre-existing loans with no authorisation to do so, sending ledgers applying high rates of monthly compound interest, making demands for payment, registering charges over consumers’ properties and pursuing court actions for money judgements and for possession.

    In an effort to avoid the relevant regulations, Mr Gopee invented a complex new type of agreement for his lending which the prosecution alleged was simply a work of fiction.

    Under this agreement, consumers would purportedly sell their home for the value of the loan, often as little as £2,000 – £5,000, to one of Mr Gopee’s companies. Another company owned by Mr Gopee then purportedly loaned the purchase money to the first company to finance the transaction. The consumer was given a licence to remain at the property on the condition that they pay the monthly liability under Mr Gopee’s intercompany loan. In this way, Mr Gopee claimed he was not entering into consumer credit agreements directly with consumers.

    In reality, the complex new agreement was nothing more than a cover for Mr Gopee to continue lending to often vulnerable consumers in the same way that he had before. The inter-company mortgage between his companies only existed on paper, and none of the consumers who gave evidence in court understood or believed that they were selling their home in order to obtain the loans that they were seeking.

    Mark Steward, Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:

    “Unauthorised money-lending is a criminal offence and causes serious harm, often to vulnerable communities. Mr Gopee’s actions showed utter contempt for the law. The FCA will continue to take whatever action is necessary to stop this misconduct.”

    The case has been listed for 10am on Friday 9 February 2018 for sentence.

    Notes to editors

    What offences had he breached?

    Two offences contrary to S.39(1) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 of carrying on a consumer credit business without a licence between 17 August 2012 and 1 April 2014, and two offences contrary to S.23(1) of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 of carrying on regulated activities (regulated credit agreements) without authorisation or exemption between 31 March 2014 and 16 December 2016.

    Until 31 March 2014, consumer credit was regulated under a licencing regime by the Office of Fair Trading. Following that date, regulation transferred to the Financial Conduct Authority who have operated an authorisation regime, requiring prospect consumer credit lenders to obtain authorisation. Only one company run by Mr Gopee ever had a credit licence – Reddy Corporation Limited – and the OFT refused to renew its licence. Mr Gopee’s appeals against that decision were unsuccessful. In refusing his appeal, the First Tier Tribunal (Credit) found that Mr Gopee failed to adhere to relevant consumer protection regulations, treating them as discretionary, and failed to deal with consumers fairly.

    Mr Gopee has registered over 1,000 charges over consumer properties at HM Land Registry.

    An alternative offence included in the indictment relating to entering regulated Sale and Rent Back agreements did not require a verdict from the jury.

    Mr Gopee wrote to the FCA on behalf of two of his companies on 31st January 2015 (two and half years after first using his new model) in an attempt to obtain a confirmation from the authority that his practice did not fall to be regulated.

    Mr Gopee said: “We are involved in lending short term finance to Limited Companies. We do not deal with individuals … We are writing to enquire whether we need to be authorised by your organisation to do this type of business.” [Mr Gopee’s emphasis] The FCA submitted this correspondence into evidence before the jury as it demonstrated, the prosecution said, a wholly disingenuous approach to the authorities, deliberately hiding the role of consumers in his dealings.

    http://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/dharam-prakash-gopee-guilty-acting-illegal-money-lender

  14. Following his convictions for illegal money lending, Gopee has been sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment. In addition, he has been issued with a Serious Crime Prevention Order (SCPO) which will severely restrict his ability to carry out this type of crime in the future.

    This is the first time the FCA has sought such an order which it says underlines the seriousness of Gopee’s conduct.

    The SCPO will begin on Gopee’s release from prison, will last for five years and includes conditions that prevent him from conducting any credit-related business, limits the number of bank accounts he can have and requires him to disclose those accounts to the FCA. Breaching the terms of the order is a criminal offence, punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

    When sentencing, trial judge said that that Gopee was aware of the FCA’s serious concerns, deciding instead to ‘… deliberately flout the law’ by ignoring the fact that he had lost his licence and trying to enforce agreements he knew were unenforceable. He continued to pressurise debtors with demands for payment, threatening court action that he knew could not be sustained.

    Commenting on his activities as a whole, the judge said that Gopee’s business practices ‘… exploited the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of many, many people …’ who were unaware that their trust in him was misplaced. He described ‘the sale and buy back’ scheme constructed by Gopee as involving one contrivance after another in an attempt to get around the law that showed ‘a horrid pattern of exploitation’.

    In addition, after the trial had concluded, the FCA revealed that it had brought two sets of proceedings against Gopee for contempt of court for repeated breaches of a restraint order obtained by the FCA under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in June 2015.

    In April 2016, following his failure to disclose his assets, continuing to deal with those assets and opening new bank accounts, Gopee was found to be in breach of the restraint order and in contempt of court. He was sentenced to 18-months imprisonment but was released early in September 2016 having promised to comply with the order. However, he went on to commit further breaches, a second set of proceeding were brought and Gopee was sentence to 15-months for contempt in October 2017.

    Gopee will continue to serve the 15-month sentence and his sentence for the illegal money lending offences will begin after that term has been completed in June 2018.

    Proceedings have now begun at Southwark Crown Court to confiscate the proceeds of Mr Gopee’s criminality.

    http://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/convicted-illegal-money-lender-sentenced-three-and-half-years-imprisonment

  15. Not before time … I had suggested to the OFT in 2013 that Gopee should be prosecuted for illegal lending but I suppose it is a case of ‘better late than never’.

  16. The latest news in the Gopee saga is the judgment of the High Court in Barons Finance Limited (in liquidation) (acting by its liquidator) v Barons Bridging Finance 1 Limited, Reddy Corporation Limited (acting by their official receiver) and Dharam Prakash Gopee [2018] EWHC 496 (Ch) which was handed down on 21 March 2018.

    This was the re-hearing of the challenge by the Barons Finance Ltd (BFL) liquidator to the purported assignment of the BFL loan book to other companies owned by Gopee.

    The High Court held that the assignment, which was purported to have been made in March 2012 before the BFL winding up petition was presented in May 2012, was invalid because it was backdated, finding that there was no evidence that it had been made before September 2012.

    Having found that assignment was void, it was not necessary to decide the other issues involved. Nevertheless, the judge expressed the view that the purported assignment was an undervalue transaction – the consideration paid was £76,500 and the value of the loan book was in excess of £612.000. Also, the purpose of the assignment was to put the assets of BFL beyond the reach of the company’s creditors.

    During the proceedings, the judge said that if the assignment was invalid, which it was, ‘the liquidator can deal with the charges, and release the registered interests on any loans which are invalid or have been fully repaid’ (paragraph 2 of the judgment).

    This was reiterated by a witness statement from the liquidator’s solicitor that said that the charges over borrowers’ properties ‘can be discharged, either because the loans were unenforceable, or have been paid off in full’ (see paragraph 28 of the judgment).

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2018/496.html.

    Therefore, because all loans made by Gopee companies are unenforceable (or ‘invalid’) because of the lack of an OFT licence or FCA authorisation (and because they are improperly executed), all borrowers with charges registered against their home should now have the charges released.

    Any such borrowers who need the charges released as a matter of urgency, for example, because they wish to sell their homes, should contact the liquidator of the company involved.

    Guy

  17. PS I should have said that borrowers should contact the liquidator or official receiver of the company involved

  18. Another Gopee case

    Just prior to Gopee’s conviction, the High Court handed down judgment in Lukan v Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd [2018] EWHC 418 (QB).

    In this case, Lukan entered into a secured loan in November 2008 with Ghana Commercial Bunks Ltd, one of Gopee’s companies, which subsequently changed its name to Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd.

    In March 2009, possession proceedings were issued against Lukan. The claim was adjourned due to his absence in Nigeria because of illness but following his continued absence, a possession order was made in June 2011 and in August 2011 a warrant for possession was issued.

    Lukan then returned to the UK and applied to set aside the possession order and the warrant but his application was refused by the District Judge on 23 September 2011. An appeal to the Circuit Judge was dismissed on 19 October 2011 and his house was repossessed.

    In June 2016 Lukan was informed that the lender did not have a consumer credit licence or FCA authorisation. As a result, he applied for permission to appeal the Circuit Judge’s refusal to set aside the possession order and the warrant. Permission for a late appeal was granted by a High Court judge in May 2017 and in September 2017 the High Court gave him permission to appeal against Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd, which was by then in liquidation.

    The Official Receiver of Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd did not appear in the proceedings but wrote to the Court to say that his stance was neutral and that he would abide by the Court’s decision.

    There was no transcript of the Circuit Judge’s decision and no other record of the reason(s) for his refusal to set aside the possession order or the warrant.

    As a result, the Court stated that it had to consider Lukan’s appeal ‘in the light of what is now known about the highly problematic activities of Mr Gopee and his companies, in order to establish whether the requirements of CPR 39.3(5) were met’ and that the appeal should be deal with as a re-hearing.

    CPR 39.3(5) allows the court to set aside a judgment where a party fails to attend a trial or a hearing.

    When considering Lukan’s appeal, the High Court noted the judgment of HHJ Mackie QC in Barons Finance Ltd v Makanju [2013] EWHC 153 in which permission for a late appeal was granted. It also referred to Gopee v Ghana Commercial Investments [2015] EWCA Civ 944 in which Gloster LJ considered Makanju and other judgments given by HHJ Mackie.

    In particular, the Court cited the remarks of Gloster LJ in which she stated that:

    ‘Mr Gopee has abused the legal process. He has used his position as a quasi-litigant in person further to disclose the wrong information about the legality of some of his actions he seeks to enforce and the past decisions of the courts about that. If he had made proper disclosure, it is unlikely that he would have obtained any judgments in the county courts.’

    In respect of CPR 39.3(5), the Court held that all three conditions had been met:

    – The application had been made promptly

    The possession order was made in June 2011, Lukan’s application to set it aside was made in September 2011 and it was refused later that month. Therefore, the whole process had taken less than four months.

    – Lukan had good reason for his absence from the original hearing as he was ill in Nigeria

    – Lukan had a reasonable prospect of successfully defending the claim at trial

    He had demonstrated that the loan was unlicensed and therefore unenforceable. Also, the agreement was ‘very substantially non-compliant’ with the CCA’s requirements on the form and content of agreements and was only enforceable on an order of the court under s65 CCA.

    The Court stated that:

    ‘Drawing the threads together, I find that the appellant has satisfied each of the three requirements of CPR 39.3(5). As I have recorded, permission to bring these proceedings out of time has already been granted by the High Court. Even if that were not so, I would have found that there are sufficiently special reasons why a decision from the County Court in 2011 should be scrutinised by the High Court in 2018. Those reasons lie in the particular nature of the proceedings and of Mr Gopee and his companies, and the sheer scale of the misfeasance exhibited in that regard.’

    As a result, the High Court allowed Lukan’s appeal and the possession order was set aside.

    https://goughsq.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Lukan-v-Ghana-Commercial-Finance-Ltd.pdf

    Does anyone have any thoughts on what Lukan’s remedy might be?

    An action against the OR for the return of the proceeds of sale + interest (assuming there is any money in the pot)?

  19. Gopee in the Court of Appeal again but this time it’s the criminal division.

    A hopeless appeal against conviction and sentence for illegal money lending with the Court of Appeal refusing him leave to appeal, and a failed appeal against his second contempt sentence.

    The Court said that his appeal was ‘wholly without merit in relation to both conviction and sentence. It has wasted many hours of precious Court time and resources …’

    As a result, the Court made a loss of time order of 56 days.

    The judgment reveals a lot more about Gopee’s nefarious activities.

    Among other things, he:

    • Owned over 400 properties that he had repossessed and rented back to the borrowers.

    • Had bank accounts in Mauritius.

    • Had failed to repatriate foreign assets as required by the FCA’s restraint order

    • Had channelled large amounts of money through his daughter’s bank account to circumvent the restraint
    order (with daughter herself apparently subject to contempt proceedings).

    • Had been lending using his credit card, again in an attempt to circumvent the restraint order.

    • Disposed of property to the Gopal Family Trust.

    Worth a read although for those interested in an example of an exploitative, disingenuous and apparently shameless illegal money lender [2019] EWCA Crim 601 at http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Crim/2019/601.html.

    Is this the end of the Gopee saga? I would like to think so but ……

    Guy Skipwith

  20. As we know, Gopee was convicted of illegal money lending offences in February 2018 and sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment, and following this, the FCA began confiscation proceedings against him in order to recover his ill gotten gains.

    In a press release on 31.10.19, borrowers who took out loans with Gopee companies were urged by the FCA to contact it as they may be eligible for compensation.

    Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA said:

    “Mr Gopee preyed on vulnerable people for his own gains. He has now been jailed and now we want to confiscate his criminal proceeds to compensate his victims. We have been in contact with victims already but we know there are more out there. We ask anyone who borrowed from Mr Gopee to come forward so we can quantify relevant amounts and present the evidence to the court.”

    Any borrowers who look out a loan with any of Gopee’s companies, and who has not yet contacted the FCA, should do so by 15 November 2019 and will need to supply sufficient information and supporting documents to demonstrate their loss.

    Borrowers who think that they have been affected should either email the FCA at OpPontefractqueries@fca.org.uk or write to the FCA at Freepost RTZE–RHAL–URAJ, for the attention of UBD RECC024, 12 Endeavour Square, London, E20 1JN.

    The FCA press release continues by saying that:

    “The confiscation proceedings relating to Mr Gopee are complex and will take some time to resolve. As matters currently stand, it is likely that the issues raised during these proceedings will need to be resolved by the Crown Court during a contested hearing, due to start on 9 December 2019.”

    “After the hearing, the Crown Court will make a confiscation order. When a confiscation order is made, the FCA will ask the Court to order that monies confiscated from Mr Gopee are used to compensate the victims who have suffered a loss from the crimes for which he has been convicted. It is for the Court to be satisfied that individuals are eligible for compensation but the evidence gathered by the FCA will assist the Court in making those decisions.”

    See http://www.fca.org.uk/news/press-releases/fca-urges-victims-illegal-loan-scheme-come-forward

    Guy Skipwith

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