UK Secured Loan Shark Faces the Law
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UPDATED: Aug 3, 2021
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A notorious East London loan shark is finally facing the power of British law.
Steve Basstoe, also known as “Jaws” by police, is a seemingly mild-mannered businessman. But he has just recently been charged with several counts of illegal money lending and blackmail, according to the Mirror. While not an official financial institution, Steve Basstoe could be one of the most recognizable names for UK residents right now.
Basstoe lived a double life. In one life he is a soft spoken father-of-two who impresses his neighbors and employees with polite courtesy. In another life, he is a menacing loan shark criminal living up to all the common stereotypes.
The Mirror reports that in one instance, Basstoe intimidated a victim into paying £120,000 worth of interest on a £5,000 loan. Here in America, that’s equivalent to nearly $193,000 on an $8,000 loan. While some quick loans may be classified as predatory lending, they generally don’t multiply your debt all at once or threaten you the way Basstoe did his victims.
From December 2008 to February 2011, Basstoe operated his illegal and criminal operation across East London. Investigators uncovered 36 separate personal loans made to 31 different people. Penalty fees along with interest allegedly earned Basstoe hundreds of thousands in profit as an alleged loan shark.
Basstoe ensured that he would receive that profit on predatory loans by conducting “loan shark” behavior.
One customer had borrowed a secured loan from Basstoe using a BMW as collateral. In a secured loan, an item of value, such as a car, is used as collateral to secure a lender’s money. A secured loan lender will seize the collateral if the borrower does not make the necessary payments on the secured loan. While this makes a mark on the borrower’s credit, the loan is generally closed at this point. Unfortunately for this borrower he borrowed money from the wrong lender.
Basstoe’s cruelty apparently knew no bounds. After seizing and selling the BMW, Basstoe threatened to send thugs to “visit” the victim’s grandmother and assault her to extort more money.
His cruelty and intimidation tactics were so menacing that he terrified another defaulting borrower into quitting his job and fleeing the city. The difference between a payday lender and a loan shark is while payday loans have high rates, borrowers are meant to eventually pay off the debt. Loan sharks rely on violence and coercion to extort far more money than was originally borrowed even after an excessive amount has been paid.
Basstoe would charge his “clients” a monthly rate of £150 interest per £1,000 borrowed until the time of repayment. He would also demand a penalty fee of £500 each day beyond the agreed-upon deadline.
For all his sinister criminal intelligence, Basstoe was no match for the combined efforts of the Illegal Money Lending Team, Havering Council Trading Standards, and the Metropolitan Police. They took action against the predatory loans he was offering and the actions that came with them.
While Jaws’ defense lawyer claims this entire trial is about the sale of cars, the judge who has scheduled sentencing in October seems to have his own thoughts.
“Prison is inevitable,” said Judge David Owen-Jones in a news story with the Mirror.
Evidence against Basstoe includes detailed lending records, fraudulent payment records, and data from his palm computer.