Members of a criminal gang posing as beggars outside mosques, hospitals and souqs in Dubai have been arrested and now face prosecution.
The five men were in some cases accompanied by women and children as they attempted to elicit an emotional response from victims, a senior member of Dubai Police said.
Maj Gen Jamal Al Jallaf, director of the Criminal Investigation Department at Dubai Police, said in a statement that the gang members would drive around in vehicles with plates from a bordering country, telling victims they were attempting to return home.
“The Asian suspects were conning people to earn money illegally,” Maj Gen Al Jallaf said.
“They were using plate numbers of a neighbouring country claiming they are citizens of a neighbouring country asking for help to return.”
He added that “begging can lead to other crimes such as burglary and exploiting children, the elderly and people of determination to raise money illegally”.
According to police, 1,700 beggars have been arrested in the past three years in Dubai.
Offenders can face up to three months in prison and a fine of Dh5,000. There is a minimum of six months in jail and a fine of Dh100,000 for organising begging.
The force warned the public to be cautious and not to give money to beggars, who mostly frequent mosques, markets, residential neighbourhoods and car parks.
Dubai Police launched a campaign during Ramadan this year to make sure donations reached those who needed them most.
Members of the public are urged to report beggars on the streets and those asking for money online to the force’s call centre 901, the Police Eye smart service or the E-crime platform.