A WOMAN has been arrested on suspicion of illegal money lending and money laundering following a joint operation.

The 40-year-old was arrested yesterday morning in Hartlepool after Cleveland Police, trading standards officers and the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT) executed search warrants at two homes.

They seized documentation and electrical devices thought to hold information about illegal lending by loan sharks.

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The suspect is currently in custody and being questioned by officers from the IMLT.

Tony Quigley, Head of the England Illegal Money Lending Team, said: “We will continue to work with local authorities and the police to combat loan sharks. These criminals cause untold misery amongst our local communities."

Ian Harrison, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Trading Standards & Licensing Manager, said: “Loan sharks prey on the poorest and weakest in society – targeting the vulnerable and those least able to help themselves. They are unlicensed and usually charge extremely high interest rates in ways designed to ensure a loan is never fully paid off. This generates more and more money for these criminals and more and more misery for the victims affected."

He said Hartlepool Council's Trading Standards Team would continue to work with the IMLT to ensure loan sharks operating in the area are identified and brought to justice.

Nationally, Illegal Money Lending Teams have secured more than 380 prosecutions for illegal money lending and related activity, leading to nearly 328 years’ worth of custodial sentences. They have written off £72.5 million worth of illegal debt and helped over 27,000 people.

Anyone issued a loan with no paperwork or are receiving threats over a loan which is already paid off, call IMLT on 0300-555-2222 in the strictest confidence.