• Austria's news in English
Private detective snoops on 'begging mafia'
A woman begging. Photo: APA/BARBARA GINDL

Private detective snoops on 'begging mafia'

The Local · 8 Jul 2014, 14:14

Published: 08 Jul 2014 14:14 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Party chairman Mark Abwerzger announced the results of the investigation on Tuesday morning in a press conference, including a detailed report and extensive photographic material.

After a two-month investigation, they have found "conclusive evidence" that begging was operated on a clearly commercial scale in the Tyrolean capital.

Abwerzger, a local councillor and former lawyer, suggested that those responsible should be prosecuted in accordance with the Tyrolean Regional Police Act.

He explained that there was a hierarchical organization in place in the city that had at peak times up to 17 beggars working in a coordinated way throughout the state capital.

Overseers would distribute the beggars to key points around Innsbruck, where they would start their activity.  "The people are forced to go begging," said the regional FPÖ leader.

At the end of the day, the beggars were collected by several different vehicles, and taken to a bus, where they would hand over their 'earnings'. Each beggar was allowed to keep between €80 to €90 per day.  In total, the collective earnings of the team would amount to "well over €20,000 per month", explained Abwerzger.
Many of the beggars pretended to have physical infirmities - in some cases, this was caused by wearing too-tight shoes, he said.  Later in the evening, some of the 'cripples' were seen to be happily riding around on scooters.
The Freedom Party chairman suggested that such behaviour was clearly fraudulent, for which many legal precedents existed.
Freedom Party Parliamentary Group Leader Rudi Federspiel, party spokesman on law and order issues, explained that "it is clearly a highly organized structure. The so-called cripples are not crippled. They even wear special shoes to appear to be in pain. I call upon the people - give the beggars nothing."
It was unlikely that any of those involved would be available as a witness to claim that they were trafficked, or forced into begging. However, he explained that the only conclusion that could be drawn is that there was a clear, "mafia-like" organization in place.
According to Federspiel, none of the beggars involved are locals.  "Innsbruck and Tyrol should not be a social security office for Eastern European beggars", he said. 
Tyrol's Bettellobby ('Begging Lobby') charity issued a statement which condemned the FPÖ's investigation as "contemptuous and disrespectful" and said that it had failed to provide sufficient evidence that organized begging existed on a large scale.
The statement added that begging bans, and spying on beggars, failed to address the real issue behind begging, which is poverty. It said that the FPÖ was drawing on long-held racist prejudices against people from Eastern Europe. 
Both Abwerzger and Federspiel criticized the work of the police, saying that the "beggar mischief" in Innsbruck could be greatly reduced if existing laws were enforced. Since begging was merely an "administrative offence", police tended to overlook the problem.  
Abwerzger suggested that the work of the organized gang of beggars should be prosecuted under the criminal code, and not under administrative law in future.
Story continues below…
They would in any case forward the collected documents to the police or the state, both announced. 
The fact that the party had resorted to hiring a private investigator, was defended by the FPÖ team, who said it was a case of "money well spent".
"If the government denies the existence of the problem, it is our fundamental duty to act here," said Abwerzger.
Other countries are finding creative ways to deal with the problem, including Denmark who are planning to export their beggars to Sweden.

For more news from Austria, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Austrian far-right leader brands Merkel 'dangerous'
Heinz-Christian Strache. Photo: Facebook/Personal

The head of Austria's far-right Freedom Party has branded Angela Merkel Europe's most dangerous politician.

Austria 'horror clown' attacks leave several injured
Clown performers are not happy about the negative media stories. Photo: Graeme Maclean/Flickr

Several people have been injured in attacks by masked assailants dressed as 'creepy clowns' in the lead-up to Halloween.

Brunnenmarkt murder 'could have been prevented'
Locals remember the murdered woman. Photo: Wien Caritas

The random murder of a woman in Vienna could have been prevented if the homeless and mentally disturbed man who killed her had been admitted to a psychiatric institution.

Iraqi family ask ECJ to help them stay in Austria
Kumberg locals hold a vigil for the family. Photo: ORF

A group of people from Kumberg in Styria have asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for help in trying to stop the deportation of an Iraqi family.

The Local List
Five things you need to know about winter tyres
Photo: carmagazine.co.uk

It’s that time of year when temperatures start to plunge and drivers are advised to switch to winter tyres to avoid being caught out by snow and ice on the roads.

Radioactive uranium rocks on display in Austrian schools
Uraninite crystals. Photo: Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com/Wikimedia

Education officials have carried out urgent checks in schools across the country after one of the stones on display in a classroom turned out to be radioactive.

Austrian churches slam far-right's 'God' slogan
Campaign poster for Norbert Hofer. Photo: Paul Gillingwater

Austrian church officials have denounced far-right presidential candidate Norbert Hofer for "instrumentalising" God in a new slogan.

'Scary clown' pushes 14-year-old off his bike in Salzburg
Generic photo: Graeme Maclean/Flickr

A 14-year-old boy in Salzburg has been injured after being pushed off his bike by an individual dressed as a scary clown.

Police puzzled by random stabbing of teenager in Vienna
Photo: Paul Gillingwater

A 15-year-old boy who was stabbed near his home in the Vienna district of Liesing on Friday morning by a complete stranger has spoken to the police.

'Sensational' 300-year-old Madonna found in Burgenland
The head of the statue was found beside the body. Photo: ORF

A 300-year-old statue of the Virgin Mary has been found hidden in a chapel next to a Catholic church in Loretto, Burgenland.

12 brilliant German words you won't find in English
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Five films which will change your mind about Austrian cinema
Those surprising Austrians!
100 years since the last emperor's death
Afghani family's new home in Austria
Der you learn Deutsch?
Delighted by the light
Beware these passport scams
Of course we skipped Oarsch
Foodies rejoice at the choice!
Travel & Tourism
10 years after her escape from captivity
Surviving the Brexit for British expats
Day 2 of the World Bodypainting Festival 2016
Is Islam hostile to Western society?
Bodypainting festival in southern Austria
Europe's ice cream capital
Best Austrian beauty spots
Travel & Tourism
Three days in Vienna as a tourist
How to make friends in Austria
jobs available