LONDON (Reuters) - A loan shark, branded a "ruthless individual" by a judge for using enforcers to collect debts that charged up to 2,437 percent interest, was jailed for five years on Wednesday.
Multi-millionaire John Kiely, 36, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court for offences including blackmail and illegal money lending.
"It's clear to me you are a ruthless individual who has displayed a high degree of criminal sophistication," said Judge Adrian Smith.
The jury had heard how Kiely charged up to 2,437 percent interest on loans and used an army of enforcers to collect debts owed by poor families living on Manchester housing estates, the Press Association reported.
Prosecutor Ben Mills said that Kiely made a profit of 2.9 million between October 2003 and his arrest in October last year.
When he was arrested Mills estimated he had 800,000 pounds in outstanding loans spread between 900 clients.
His trial heard how he was able to pay 800,000 pounds in cash for a mock-Tudor seven-bedroom house, complete with turret, in picturesque Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire.
Kiely was convicted of two counts of blackmail against Donna Ockerby, 45, who told the court she was left fearing for her life and was forced to move to a secret location to escape him.
He was also found guilty of one count of acquiring criminal property, two counts of concealing, disguising, converting or transferring criminal property, and two counts of unlawfully failing to give notice of a change in circumstances.
Kiely also admitted, at an earlier hearing, five counts of illegal money lending.
Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Avril Ormsby