Beggars from Romania and Bulgaria have become a common sight on Sweden's streets. Photo:
Two Bulgarian brothers were jailed in Sweden Friday for "human trafficking" after exploiting poverty-stricken and
disabled people in a begging scheme.
The two men, aged 39 and 42, "recruited, housed and exploited" five people who were drawn into a life of begging on the streets of Gothenburg in southern Sweden.
The brothers received three-year and three-and-a-half-year prison sentences.
Their victims included a 69-year-old pensioner, an illiterate 21-year-old in a wheelchair, and a blind 62-year-old. All were lured into the deal by the promise of work in Sweden, but they did not touch the money they made from the
long days of begging.
The Swedish court estimates that the scheme brought the brothers more than 30,000 euros ($34,000) in five months -- between June and October 2015.
Two others, a 31-year-old Macedonian who offered his apartment to house the victims, and a 32-year-old Bulgarian woman who helped with logistics of the setup, received lighter sentences of eight and six months in prison.
The Swedish government estimates that some 4,700 people, primarily from Romania and Bulgaria, have come to beg in Sweden under the EU's freedom of movement rules, with the numbers increasing sharply in the last five years.