United Kingdom : Zimbabwean Nurse didn’t know it was illegal to lend people money

A Devon nurse who set up an illegal money lending operation among the Zimbabwean community ended up out of pocket after it was closed down by the police.

Clever Gwidza started by lending money informally to family and friends but his business grew and he ended up loaning out around £70,000.

All his loans were made for just a month and were all charged at 24 per cent a month interest. He is now out of pocket because he is unable to recoup those which were outstanding when his operation was closed down.

He was spared an immediate jail sentence after a judge heard he did not know that he needed a licence from the Financial Conduct Authority to lend money.

Gwidza, aged 39, of Runnon Moor, Hatherleigh, near Okehampton, admitted engaging in unlawful money laundering and was jailed for four months, suspended for a year, and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work and pay £2,325 costs by Judge Geoffrey Mercer, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He told him:”Unlawful money lending is a very serious matter which normally results in people going straight to prison. In your case, it is agreed that you did not know you required authorisation or that what you were doing was illegal.

“It appears it is quite common in Zimbabwe, from where you come, and that makes it very different. The amounts involved are around £60,000 and the police intervention means that you have not made a profit and have possibly made a loss.”

Mr Simon Mortimer, prosecuting, said police found a spreadsheet on Gwidza’s computer which showed lending of £70,037 to 22 people. Repayments totalled around £60,000.

All loans were for 30 days and were repaid with 24 per cent, so one customer who borrowed £1,000 in October 2016 repaid £1,240 the next month.

Mr Mark Jackson, defending, said:”He made a loss. He loaned £70,000 and got back £60,000, so he was £10,000 down.

“He is a member of the Zimbabwean community and started out with family and friends. It moved on to friends of friends as well. These sort of arrangements are common in Zimbabwe and he did not realise it was unlawful.

“The rates of interest he was charging were much lower than those of some well known payday loans companies.”

He said Gwidza is an agency nurse specialising in mental health who is currently working at a hospital in Cornwall. He has been in this country since 1999 and is married with two children.

A probation report said Gwidza is a very religious man who is ashamed and embarrassed at having broken the law.

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