'Fake beggars' around Melbourne CBD allegedly flown in from China

Police said there was an operation aimed at "deceiving the good people of Melbourne".

So-called professional beggars have been nabbed by police for allegedly duping Melburnians out of their cash and sending it to China.

Seven elderly Chinese tourists are among seven people charged with begging and possessing suspected proceeds of crime after being arrested with about $1000 cash on city streets this week.

It comes two weeks after a video was published on Reddit which claims to show a "syndicate" of beggars around the city centre.

The Reddit video appeared two weeks ago.
Source: Reddit

Begging is illegal in Victoria and police said the tourists are thought to be part of a larger operation and pretended to be homeless so they could get money and send it overseas.

"They're not vulnerable people. They've got access to housing and they're just taking advantage and deceiving the good people of Melbourne," Acting Inspector Giovanni Travaglini told reporters on Friday.

"We obviously seized an amount of money and also located foreign exchange receipts which indicated that a lot of the money that the good people of Melbourne were giving is basically being exchanged for Chinese currency."

Victoria Police Acting Inspector John Travaglini speaks to the media on Friday.
Source: AAP

Police said one woman featured in the Reddit video was among those charged.

All had been referred to the Salvation Army but only one was interested in getting help.

Salvation Army Major Brendan Nottle, speaking alongside police, said he felt "physically sick" when he saw tourists trying to dupe Australians.

"When we spoke to the people that had allegedly been begging they all indicated they wanted a return ticket to China," he said.

But Major Nottle also asked Melburnians not to turn away from people in genuine need.

"We want to encourage them to make sure they don’t harden their hearts to people who are doing it tough in our city and we want to make sure that people who are sleeping rough around the city receive support, receive practical support."

Lord Major Sally Capp asked that beggars not be given money but instead referred to service providers.

"I think it's clear now that they are part of an organised system but that many of those people are really quite vulnerable themselves and they've been pulled into this situation," she said.

The seventh person arrested was not necessarily linked to the Chinese group, police said.

All seven people charged are not in custody but have been referred to federal police and Australian Border Force.

Published 5 July 2019 at 3:36pm, updated 5 July 2019 at 7:15pm
Source: SBS News