A 77-year-old man accused of illegally lending £390,000 during 20 years while charging £218,000 interest, received a six months suspended jail term on Monday.

Edwin Evan Thomas, of Frances Avenue, Rhyl, North Wales, faces a Proceeds of Crime application although his counsel said he rented his home.

The prosecution was brought by the Wales Illegal Money Lending Unit. He admitted illegal money lending.

Judge David Hale told the pensioner: "I suspect you never started off in 1997 by thinking over the next 20 years you would lend nearly £400,000.”

The judge said there were no threats or exorbitant penalties and more than £100,000 wasn’t paid by borrowers.

Judge Hale added: "The amount of money outstanding, no-one has to pay that back to you.”

Prosecuting counsel John Wyn Williams said Thomas was regarded as a “nice” man by customers.

“But the exploitation still exists,” counsel remarked. “He’s there providing this illegal service.”

Just over £14,000 had been seized after a search of his home, Mold Crown Court heard.

Defence barrister Simon Killeen said the worst feature was the length of time involved but he urged the judge to pass a suspended sentence.

Mr Killeen added: "He’s been a good neighbour to a number of elderly people around him and worked tirelessly for them.”