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Seven Chinese nationals arrested in Melbourne over ‘professional begging’ syndicate

Seven Chinese nationals arrested in Melbourne over ‘professional begging’ syndicate

A beggar sits at a corner outside of Starbucks Coffee in central Melbourne. (Image: Video screengrab/Reddit user NewEditionHit)

MELBOURNE: Seven Chinese nationals have been arrested in Melbourne's central business district on suspicion of being part of a professional begging syndicate, said Australian police on Friday (Jul 5). 

The suspects, aged between 65 and 72, entered Australia on tourist visas. They claimed to be homeless but all had accommodation, police told local media. 

"(These) people have flown into the country just to make money off Melburnians' goodwill. We're a generous bunch but we've got a zero tolerance for that sort of behaviour," Acting Inspector John Travaglini told ABC radio. 

He added that the "professional beggars" were caught with receipts showing money collected had been converted into Chinese currency.

Police seized cash amounting to about A$1,000 (USD$700), but said that the full extent of how much money was made is not known.

Begging in the state of Victoria is a crime. 

The arrests were made on Monday and Tuesday in a joint operation involving police and the Salvation Army. The suspects are expected to be charged on summons with begging and gathering alms and possessing property believed to be the proceeds of crime.

A beggar in central Melbourne shields her face from the camera. (Image: Video screengrab/Reddit user NewEditionHit)

Professional begging syndicates in Melbourne have made the news previously. 

Last month, a video circulated online showed several women begging at street corners in central Melbourne. They were seen hunched or lying on the ground as they asked for money. Two of the women filmed shielded their face sand quickly packed their belongings when they noticed the camera.

In 2015, a study by a Salvation Army support service found that professional beggars were earning up to A$400 a day, with many working six days per week.

Source: CNA/nr(gs)

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