Hackney Illegal Money Lender is Jailed

A loan shark who preyed on people with gambling habits and illegally took property as security has today been sentenced to one year in prison.

Tung Tai Ha, aged 59 of Brunswick House, Hackney pleaded guilty to nine counts including illegal lending, money laundering and retaining peoples passports at an earlier hearing at Isleworth Crown Court. He deliberately targeted people with gambling problems, and people with poor credit ratings. His victims were mainly Vietnamese, Bengali and Chinese - targeted because they spoke little English - and lived in Hammersmith, Fulham, Southwalk, Tower Hamlets and Ilford.

Tung, a Vietnamese UK national, was convicted after anonymous calls were made to the national Stop Loan Sharks helpline, and an investigation was carried out by London Trading Standards illegal money lending team, in partnership with Hackney council.

Many of Tung’s victims heard of him through friends, many of whom had loans with Tung.

Tung would insist that whoever recommended him, would accompany the new ‘customer’. This way they would act as a guarantor and would be responsible for paying if their friend could not.

Tung asked for interest payments, once a month, up until the debtors were able to pay the lump sum they had borrowed originally. He would take items as security for the loan including passports, driving licenses, travellers cheques, jewellery and bank cards.

One of Tung’s victims claimed that after taking a loan for £1100, he ended up paying back almost £9,000. He also stated that Tung still had possession of his son’s passport, his wife’s bank card, his driving licence, travellers cheques and jewellery.

The illegal money lending team executed a warrant in August 2009 at Tung’s flat and found expensive jewellery along with a special tool for determining the quality of diamonds, and £4,520 cash. He has forfeited £80,000 worth of jewellery and the cash. Also found were 13 passports, car keys and bank cards belonging to “clients” which Tung kept as security in exchange for loans. He would charge APR interest rates of around 240 per cent.

Tung had never applied for a consumer credit licence, and as such was operating.-illegally between 2003 and 2009. Large amounts were paid in and out of his bank account despite the fact that he was unemployed and claiming benefits.

Cllr Sophie Linden, Hackney Council cabinet member for crime, sustainability and customer services, said: “This unscrupulous loan shark targeted the most vulnerable. He kept them imprisoned in debt and hardship. Our message to anyone who is tempted to take out money with an illegal loan shark is, don’t do it. If you have debt problems or gambling addictions seek professional help. If you think anyone is involved in illegal money lending you can report this confidentially."

Nationally the Stop Loan Sharks project has so far helped more than 14,500 victims, written off more than £25million of illegal debt and secured more than 60 years of prison sentences.

Her Honour Guggenheim QC sentenced Tung to eight months for illegal money lending and four months for money laundering and retaining passports, to be served consecutively. She said “In respect of the indictment, the matters were so severe that an immediate custodial sentence would be necessary”

He was given two deprivation orders, one for the £80,000 worth of jewellery and another for the £4,520 in cash.

To report a loan shark:

Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222
Text ‘loan shark + your message’ to 60003
Log-on to