A HILLINGDON woman who operated as a loan shark has been given a suspended jail sentence and told to complete 150 hours of unpaid work.

Saowaluk Fernando, 48, of Harlington Road, was found guilty after a trial of two counts of illegal money lending and two of money laundering between 2012 and 2019.

She appeared at Isleworth Crown Court for sentencing on Friday (28), when she was sentenced to 24 months in custody, suspended for 18 months, as well as the unpaid work.

She is also subject to an electronic curfew for four months.

Fernando was arrested in 2019 after an investigation by the England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), working in partnership with the Met Police and Hillingdon Trading Standards.

Ian Rees-Phillips, prosecuting for IMLT, said Fernando handed out unlawful loans and then used the interest made from them to fund more loans to others.

She made an estimated £250,000 from her lending and used the proceeds to fund her own lifestyle and overpay on her mortgage, in the absence of other income.

A confiscation order is being considered and judgement will be made this month.

Speaking after the hearing, the head of IMLT, Tony Quigley, said: “People may think someone offering loans in this way is doing them a favour. The truth is they are exploiting the vulnerable and acting illegally.

“We would like to thank the witnesses in this case who had to attend court and relive their experiences.

“We want to reassure people in this position that we are here to help, and they can speak to a member of our team in confidence at any time.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the IMLT. Since its launch, the team has supported more than 31,700 people and written off £91.3m worth of illegal debt, securing more than 420 prosecutions and leading to more than 600 years in jail.

You can access support online at www.stoploansharks.co.uk