Officers from the Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF) have acknowledged the sentence handed down to Geoffrey Beggs at Antrim Crown Court on Tuesday 20 September.

Beggs, aged 61, was sentenced to 20 months suspended for two years for money lending; and 12 months suspended for two years for tax evasion.

He was arrested following a search at business premises in Belfast on 17 September 2017 as part of an investigation into suspected criminality linked to the North Belfast UVF.

A number of items were seized, including numerous customer ledgers and counterfeit cigarettes and a Money Lending and Tax Evasion investigation was subsequently commenced.

Detective Inspector Corrigan from the Police Service said: "Police believe entries in the ledgers related to illegal money lending transactions with a 50 per cent interest charge marked-up against the sum borrowed. 

"Partners within the PCTF remain committed to tackling the organised criminality of those who hide under the banner of a paramilitary organisation. 

“Along with our partners, we’re focused on highlighting and addressing how paramilitary groups use money lending as a means to control and exploit vulnerable people.  The coercion that comes with illegal money lending means that it’s common for victims to feel that they have no-one to turn to.

“I’m taking this opportunity to ask anyone who is, or has been, a victim of illegal money lending to contact police on 101. You can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

A public awareness campaign ‘Ending the Harm’ focuses on the harm caused by illegal money lending. This campaign is part of the Northern Ireland Executive Programme to Tackle Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime, which involves Government Departments, law enforcement agencies, local councils, and community and voluntary sectors working together to break the cycle of violence and prevent yet another generation of young people from being exploited and abused by paramilitaries.

To find out where victims can go for support, please visit the campaign website