Friday, 25 April 2014

Loan sharks coerce tenants who can’t repay debt into creating drug farms

Tenants forced to grow cannabis

Loan sharks are forcing social housing tenants to convert rooms into cannabis farms when they are unable to make repayments.

The tactic, employed by unscrupulous lenders, was uncovered by a former police officer of 31 years’ experience who is now working for 3,500-home South Liverpool Housing Group.

Ian Roche, co-ordinator of SLHG’s witness and victim encouragement and support scheme, said the practice was a new phenomenon. ‘I have not heard of it before - it has only come up in recent months.’

Tenants targeted in a handful of cases included those who borrow money to pay off rent arrears but do not have access to conventional financial products.

‘It is quite easy to meet a loan shark and there is never any contract,’ Mr Roche added.

‘As part of repaying their debt, if they [tenants] can’t pay cash up front they are being told “if you can’t give us the money you will grow cannabis for us”.

‘Their [the loan sharks’] people will come in and convert a room into a cannabis farm.’

A spokesperson for the Birmingham-based Illegal Money Lending Team, which investigates unscrupulous lenders, said it was helping to prosecute a case where a loan shark had coerced a borrower into creating a drugs farm.

Peter Jackson, managing director of the Social Landlords’ Crime and Nuisance Group, said police around the country were reporting that tenants were being targeted to cultivate cannabis farms but that he was unaware of any link with illegal lenders.

‘There is a view that the proliferation is largely as result of customs being more efficient in stopping the cannabis coming into the country from abroad.’

Since 2009 several people have been jailed for periods of up to eight years for running cannabis farms in a bid to pay off debts.

Councils including Oldham, Watford, Derbyshire and Tyneside have reported cases.

Mr Roche said tenants could avoid facing drugs charges and tenancy action by seeking help from their landlord. ‘If they [tenants], are found with cannabis farms they are at risk of facing tenancy action. People don’t realise there is help available.’


Readers' comments (6)

  • Fear & Loathing

    Cor............ When I saw this headline I thought it was another of Shapps' new initiatives!

    Still it is 1st April.

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  • Alpha One

    Good one Fear & Loathing!!

    Landlords need to do more to let Tenants know that if they are in trouble with money they need to go and see them. No landlord will evict a tenant in need, most can't as they are charities.

    Landlords can, however, help. They can put them on to HB officers to see if that is a possibility. They can agree payment plans. They may even be able to offer lines of credit themselves in some circumstances.

    The message is simple, don't fret, don't speak to loan sharks, go and speak to your landlord.

    Obviously, if you're in the private sector it's a bit different, but then many landlords will choose the tenant in situ over the cost of eviction and finding a new tenant. Even if they have to swallow a tenant paying a reduced amount.

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  • Sidney Webb

    Can they not be given greenhouses in which they can grow poppies - the rate of return would be far higher, and of course the landlords could keep an 80% cut.

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  • April Fool

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  • Sexton

    Good to know that loan sharks have been involved in farming industry ...

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  • Sexton

    Good to know that loan sharks have been involved in farming industry ...

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