Organized Crime Found Behind Begging

News Brief: Oct. 2010

News | Vienna Review | October 2010

Beggars in Vienna have been found to have close ties to the Eastern-European mafia the Austrian Police announced in August, following in a joint operation between the Austrian, Italian, and Spanish police forces. Twenty-five gang members were arrested in Madrid, Venice, and Vienna in June and July, for crimes including money laundering, extortion, drug trafficking, and possession of weapons according to Austria’s Federal Crime Office.  In addition to the organized begging, the group is thought to have been involved in up to 40% of all petty crime in Vienna, according to police reports.

Mafia members in Vienna had been sending women, the disabled, and children principally from Rumania, requiring to bring in €80 a day by begging; a failure to do so often resulted in violent abuse. Beggars were housed in tiny flats, containing up to as many as 40 people, according to Gerald Tatzgern, head of the Office to Combat Human Trafficking of the Austrian Federal Crime Bureau.

In response, a new law makes professional begging illegal in Austria – a measure supported by the center-right People’s Party (ÖVP), the far right Freedom Party (FPÖ), and the center-left Social Democrats (SPÖ).  The Green Party opposed the measure.

The suspects have been deported to Romania, where they await trial.

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