Roma cash seized as six held in begging crackdown
Published 20/10/2011 | 05:00
A MAJOR garda investigation into an illegal "family business" of Roma gypsies begging has confiscated thousands of euro in cash destined for Romania.
Investigators raided a weekly bus service and have also identified a Western Union transfer route used to distribute funds, the Irish Independent has learned.
Gardai believe the "substantial" cash operation in the capital has been co-ordinated by a single family or "clan".
Heading up the probe, Inspector Patrick McMenamin of Pearse Street garda station said that in one case a "barefoot beggar", well known in the Grafton Street area, was stopped en route to his native country with €1,800 in €50 notes.
"So while he may look pretty sad in Grafton Street, I can assure you that he is manipulating the people that are giving him the money," he said.
"It is known to ourselves that people will actually go in and buy him runners. He has more runners I think than the Footlocker (shop) at this stage."
"When he is arrested there is someone there that will fairly soon turn up with his runners. And the €1,800 that he was found (with) going out of Dublin on a Saturday evening, I think speaks volumes."
The probe was launched following the introduction of new legislation last February.
While begging itself is not illegal, the Criminal Justice Public Order Act 2011 identifies a number of offences including organised operations. It also bans aggressive begging and living off the proceeds of begging by another party.
Outlining the operation at a meeting of the Dublin Regional Authority (DRA) this week, Insp McMenamin said he was hopeful that charges would be brought against a number of Roma suspects.
Some 30 addresses in Dublin and Kildare have been raided.
"To date we have six persons that we have arrested and detained in relation to organised begging. Those people were all from one particular family or clan of people of Roma gypsies," he said.
"We have seized approximately €7,000 from known street beggars, again (on the) buses and (from) people we have arrested."
Councillor Mannix Flynn, a member of the DRA, said the report was only a small measure of a greater national problem.
"This goes to show that besides those who are in dire need and have no alternative but to beg there are those who exploit it for financial gain," he said.