London

Charity bag fraud: Arrests over second-hand clothes thefts

Four men have been held in raids linked to the theft of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of second-hand clothes.

Police have been investigating gangs which create unregistered "charities" then sell public donations overseas.

Two people were held at a warehouse in Rainham, east London, where £20,000 was found, plus charity bags and computers. They are suspected of money-laundering and fraud by false representation.

The other arrests were made in south-east London and Essex.

All four men have been released on bail.

"Charity bag fraud is a serious criminal threat, stealing millions of pounds from those who help the most vulnerable in society, both at home and abroad," said Cdr Ian Dyson of City of London Police.

It is estimated the thefts deprive organisations of up to £50m of income annually.

People have been urged to contact the police if they believe a charity or charity bags are fraudulent.

The children's charity NSPCC said genuine bags should contain a registered charity number.

On Wednesday a meeting will be held in central London at which fundraisers and Nick Hurd, the minister for civil society, will discuss the issue.

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