Page last updated at 16:11 GMT, Monday, 13 July 2009 17:11 UK

Money lender 'helped his debtors'

John Kiely
John Kiely denies five counts of blackmail

A money lender accused of blackmailing customers struggling to pay debts told a court that he tried to help them.

John Kiely, 36, of Chapel-en-le Frith, Derbyshire, denied a family's claims that harassment by him and his enforcers led them to flee their home.

Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard Mr Kiely, who made £2.9m in five years, charged customers 65% interest.

Mr Kiely, 36, who operated mainly in Manchester denies five counts of blackmail and other offences.

Mr Kiely worked in the Clayton, Openshaw, Beswick and Harpurhey areas.

Donna Ockerby borrowed £300 to buy a wedding dress when she was "absolutely desperate" in January 2007, the court heard.

Reduced payment

She told the jury Mr Kiely left her fearing for her life after allegedly grabbing her and demanding payment in an aggressive manner.

Her husband and daughter also claimed they were subjected to threats and intimidation.

Mr Kiely, 36, admitted he loaned them money but told his barrister Arthur Gibson that he reduced their weekly payment from £70 a week to £20 to help them out.

He said he never intimidated Ms Ockerby.

Mr Kiely admitted he ran an unlicensed money lending business, which changed when he obtained a licence from the Office of Fair Trading last year for his firm Millennium Finance Limited.

Mr Kiely said his conviction for assaulting a customer's mother came about after a row over the sale of a car and that she got "caught in the crossfire" when he accidentally punched her.

Mr Kiely denies five counts of blackmail, one count of acquiring criminal property, two counts of concealing, disguising, converting or transferring assets, and two counts of unlawfully failing to give notice of a change in circumstances.

The trial continues.

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