A STRING of companies controlled by a south Essex businessman were wound up by the High Court for illegal money-lending.

Judges found Dharam Prakash Gopee, of Brightwell Avenue, Westcliff, was behind 14 firms which were all registered in London.

The 68-year-old is facing a criminal trial next year on five charges that he operated as an unlicensed consumer credit lender and conducted regulated activity without authorisation. He denies the allegations.

In his judgement, Deputy Registrar Prentice found the companies were involved in “unauthorised lending”, that they were incapable of carrying on business in a “transparent manner” and had engaged in “wholesale abuse of the company accounting system”.

He noted that the companies had no employees other than Gopee, despite company letters signed by “Nigel Coombes” and “H Glover, manager for legal services”, who were aliases of Gopee.

The unlicensed companies lent to members of the public at high interest rates, secured against the borrowers’ homes and brought numerous court cases to take possession of properties belonging to borrowers who fell behind with payments.

Gopee was disqualified as a director on May 5, 2016, for 15 years, the maximum period of disqualification available.

David Hill, a chief investigator with the Insolvency Service, said: “I am very pleased to see that the court has called a halt to the unscrupulous activities of these companies.

“They have pursued hundreds of borrowers for loans that should never have been made. The companies have shown no regard for the law.”

The companies subject to the winding up order are Euro Business Finance PLC; Reddy Corporation Ltd; Ghana Commercial Finance Ltd; Barons Bridging Finance 1 Lts; Barons Finance 1 Ltd; Moneylink Finance Ltd; Agni Investments Ltd; Ghana Commercial Investment Ltd; Pangold Estate Ltd; Pangold Investments Ltd; Speedy Bridging Finance Ltd; Marketing Web Ltd; Agni Estates Ltd and Euro Asset Management Ltd.

Gopee will stand trial at Southwark Crown Court on January 15.