A LOAN shark has been jailed for three-and-a-half years after he conned vulnerable debtors out of more than £2million.

Dharam Gopee, 64, of Brightwell Avenue, Westcliff, took possession of 100 homes from around 200 victims because they failed to repay debts of just a few thousand to him.

Former nurse Gopee, an unlicensed consumer-credit lender, was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court after he was found guilty of acting as an illegal lender.

The case is the first of its kind in the history of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The Mail reported that, Judge Martin Beddoe told Gopee: “By 2010 there was concern about the manner of your activity that caused the regulators serious consideration and you were clearly advised that the writing was on the wall.

“I doubt that it was any surprise to you that your application to secure that license was rejected in 2012.

“However, you did two things to deal with the situation; first you continued to engage in litigation to enforce the terms of property agreements by application to the courts.

“The second thing you did was to decide to deliberately flout the law in two dishonest and serious ways.

“First, by ignoring the fact that you had lost your license and putting pressure on your debtors by sending them demands for payment with the threat of court action.”

The charges dated from between 17 August 2012 and 16 December 2016.

Gopee did previously hold a license as a credit lender until he lost it in 2012.

He then continued to trade through a network of 20 companies.

Ian Hope, prosecuting, said: “He has navigated the courts asserting his rights and represented himself and for all these years he has been navigating a landscape that is licensed and regulated - he knows it inside out.

“And for whatever reason he has set up 20 different companies.

“That has added an unnecessary layer of complexity to his dealings which is something of a recurring theme.

“Just one of these companies ever had a licence to work on consumer credit.”

Father of four, Gopee, who was formerly a nurse, will serve three-and-a-half years on top of a 15-month sentence he is serving for contempt of court in October 2017.

Mark Steward, the FCA’s head of enforcement and market oversight told The Mail: “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.”