The latest episode in the ongoing saga of the unlawful moneylender Dharam Prakash Gopee [or sometimes Ghopee] has just been handed down. (To catch up with the extraordinary history of the predatory, unlawful secured lending of Mr Gopee’s many and various companies, the many possession proceedings and the complicated current court cases, see here, or the July 2014 summary of HHJ Mackie QC)
Gopee & Ors v London Mercantile Court  EWCA Civ 944
When last we saw Mr Gopee, the position was as set out in HHJ Mackie QC’s July 2014 summary. All Mr Gopee’s possession or debt related proceedings, under any of the multifarious company names he used, were either gather together into one set of proceedings, or if Gopee had not so transferred them, struck out. The Land Registry were on notice to refuse any of Gopee company transfers of title, the liquidator of Barons Finance was chasing the ‘assignments’ of the debt book and interests of Barons Finance to other companies shortly before a demand for payment of a default costs certificate – which led to the liquidation. There were also failed attempts by Mr G to appeal to the Court of Appeal and a failed attempt to join the Land Registrar, as well as rejected applications to bring proceedings against the MoJ as vicariously responsible for HHJ Mackie QC, who kept finding against Gopee. The reasons for this appear to have escaped Mr Gopee.
Mr Gopee asserts that I am prejudiced. I can understand why he has that impression but consider that he is mistaken. In Makanju I identified between paragraphs 14 and 22 a series of reasons apparently applicable in all these cases why the borrower had real prospects of showing that the lenders and their assignees could not recover the loans or enforce their security. At no point since I gave that judgment have the lenders shown any coherent reason why those provisional conclusions are not correct.
What this latest judgment deals with are various applications to appeal out of time by Mr Gopee, via various companies, against the July 2013 order and January 2014 extended order by HHJ Mackie QC. Mr Gopee argued that:
i) HHJ Mackie was biased in that he had prejudged all matters in which Mr Gopee and his associated companies were involved. He had pursued a crusade against Mr Gopee which was entirely unjustified.
ii) As a result Mr Gopee and his associated companies have been and will be continued to be deprived of their right to a fair trial contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998 if all the actions are dealt with by HHJ Mackie.
iii) HHJ Mackie had disregarded the changes in legislation to the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
iv) HHJ Mackie had wrongly reopened past cases without regard to authorities such as Henderson v Henderson (1843) AER 378.
v) As a result of the extended order dated 29 January 2014, associated companies of Mr Gopee, which had purchased properties, or which had acquired charges over properties through subrogation as a result of paying off debts owed to previous chargees, had been unable to have their purchases, or charges, protected on the register or protected by way of a notice on the Register of Titles maintained by HM Land Registry. The result of the extended order was that Ghana Commercial Investments Limited and Moneylink Finance Limited were unable, despite the fact that they had acquired properties, or obtained rights to charges through subrogation or as assignees to submit any application to HM Land Registry to protect their interests in the properties. Accordingly by the extended order HHJ Mackie had effectively deprived Mr Gopee and the applicant companies of their right to peaceful enjoyment of their possessions and protection of their properties contrary to the Human Rights Act 1998.
vi) The extended order was accordingly made without jurisdiction, or in excess of jurisdiction, without any valid justification. It was highly oppressive and of an exceptionally Draconian nature and ought to be set aside or quashed.
vii) The fact that HHJ Mackie had stated that there were no pleadings in the action and that the decision was by way of the court’s own motion deprived Mr Gopee and his companies of their rights to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal in breach of the Human Rights Act 1998.
Alas for Mr Gopee, his applications, made as late as March 2015, had left out both the transcripts and any mentions of HHJ Mackie QC’s judgment of 5 February 2014 and the 31 July 2014 judgment. The Court was provided with those judgments (but not by Mr Gopee), and the detail therein made a significant impact on the Court’s view of the merits of his proposed appeals.
Although I was initially concerned at the hearing by the extent of the relief granted in this case by HHJ Mackie not only under his original order dated 19 July 2013 but also under the extended order, and the effect which it had on Mr Gopee and his associated companies to exercise their right to purchase properties and, by means of discharging sums owing under previous charges, to acquire the benefit of charges by subrogation, I am satisfied, on a full reading of the papers, that Mr Gopee and his associated companies have no reasonable prospect of success on appeal either against the order made on 19 July 2013 or against the extended order made on 29 January 2014.
On the specific issues raised by Mr Gopee:
i) HHJ Mackie has now retired and therefore will not be hearing any cases. All cases will be dealt with either in the London Mercantile Court by a different judge (if they raise issues of principle) or by a judge of the Central London County Court, reserved to District Judge Langley or District Judge Lightman. Accordingly no questions of bias or prejudice can arise in the future and there is nothing to support the allegations of past bias.
ii) Neither Mr Gopee nor his associated companies have lost their ability to acquire properties, or interest in properties such as charges, or to protect their interests accordingly by means of registration at HM Land Registry. The fact that the results of the extended order requires them to issue proceedings to justify their entitlement to do so is merely as a result of the case management directions given by HHJ Mackie which, given the appalling past history of Mr Gopee and his associated companies’ loans in breach of the requirements of the Consumer Credit Act 1974, are entirely justifiable. The fact that Mr Gopee and his associated companies are required to go through the hoops of issuing proceedings against HM Land Registry to satisfy the court that their loans or acquisitions are not yet another example of an appalling breach of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 cannot possibly in all the past circumstances be regarded as a breach of their human rights. If HM Land Registry wrongfully object to a request for registration in circumstances where there are no possible objections on Consumer Credit or other grounds, then no doubt it will have to bear the costs of any application made by Mr Gopee and/or his associated companies to obtain the Court’s sanction to the transaction.
iii) In other words the orders of HHJ Mackie have not precluded Mr Gopee and his associated companies from protecting or establishing their rights in appropriate proceedings in the London Mercantile Court or in the Central County Court. These orders were a legitimate means of protecting the interests of the numerous borrowers whom Mr Gopee’s companies had dealt with in serious breach of the requirements of the Consumer Credit Act. HHJ Mackie had by the time of the extended order had extensive experience of dealing with the problems to which these cases gave rise. His response was in my judgment a practical and proportionate one.
Whether this will be the end of Mr Gopee’s procedural challenges to the various orders and case management directions made by HHJ Mackie QC will have to remain to be seen. Certainly this latest batch of applications have run into the ground. Failing to provide the Court with details of relevant judgments in the appealed matters is never a good move, particularly if they are damning of you.
Although HHJ Mackie QC has now retired, his management of the Gopee cases has been an epic task and one accomplished with a clear view of the demands of justice as between the (many) parties.
Sooner or later – let us hope sooner – Mr Gopee is going to have to face the task of defending the validity and recoverability of the loans made by his companies in breach of Consumer Credit Act 1974 at trial. So far, there has been no sight of such a defence.
I have heard that Mr Gopee is still threatening borrowers with court proceedings unless payments are made. Anyone who has borrowed from one of Mr Gopee’s companies should be aware that he can’t start proceedings without permission of the Mercantile Court and that there are forthcoming trials on the issue of whether the debts are legally enforceable.
*The title is Chief’s fault entirely and I declaim any responsibility