Three senior foreign-born bikies were deported to their native countries last week after their Australian visas were cancelled. The men were members of different gangs — the Mongols, Nomads and Bandidos — in South Australia and Queensland.
The Australian Border Force removed the men last week, sending one to return to the United Kingdom and two to New Zealand. Their cancellation of visa was based on character grounds under s501 of the Migration Act 1958.
There have been more than 190 organised crime members (OMCG) whose visas have been cancelled or refused since 2014. On Sunday, a 41-year-old New Zealand national was also removed from Brisbane Airport due to his significant criminal history.
“Collectively these individuals had criminal convictions that related to drug and weapons possession as well as inciting extreme violence,” ABF Commander of Field Operations James Copeman said. “The ABF maintains a strong focus on disrupting the activities of OMCG’s outlaw motorcycle gangs, by identifying, targeting and cancelling the visas of their members.
“Any non-citizen with an extensive criminal history and involvement with a criminal organisation, such as an OMG, can expect to have their visa cancelled and to be removed from Australia.”
As the ABF said, it has been kicking out foreign-born individuals with criminal convictions, particularly from biker gangs, for years. Just last month, a member of the French chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang was denied entry into the country for “presenting a risk to the health, safety or good order of the Australian community, or a segment of the community.”
A bikie involved in the 2013 Broadbeach brawl was also deported to New Zealand last month. He had served his community service sentence in 2014, but he was still found a risk to the community.
Also in August, in a reverse situation, a man who infiltrated Bandidos bikie gang on the orders of the Australian Crime Commission has been granted refugee status in Canada. The Immigration and Refugee Board in Canada concurred that ACC failed to give Steven Utah adequate protection from bikie gangs when his cover was exposed. Utah became the first known refugee from Australia.
The Canberra Times
It was the footage that shocked a city. Three hooded men, one carrying a pistol and another what appears to be a shotgun, stealing quietly into the yarn of a suburban home in south Canberra in the dark of night.
The security camera cuts to three figures bashing at a side door of the house and shots begin to ring out. A sudden and violent firefight erupts. Meanwhile, two of the figures in the yard start dousing surrounding cars with accelerants before striking a match. Soon the entire scene explodes into a fiery inferno as flames engulf the yard and cars.
Horrified Calwell residents may have been jolted out of their beds by the explosions and gunshots. But it’s not the first time Canberra’s spiralling bikie gang war has spilled onto the city’s streets, and according to police, there’s more to come.
For many years Canberra was largely insulated from the bitter turf wars seen between rival gangs in other cities. But the recent string of attacks has left many in the community wondering what’s behind the apparent upturn in bikie activity in the territory.
ACT Policing Superintendent Scott Moller – speaking exclusively with The Canberra Times on Canberra’s outlaw bikie scene – says the ACT is in the middle of a battle for supremacy.
We’re seeing the emergence of the Finks play out at the moment,” says Superintendent Moller.
“We’ve got to stress that it’s a fluid and dynamic environment, things change often and frequently.”
And that process of establishment in the world of crime can involve a lot of violence.
In July, the gangs publicly clashed in a three-on-three public brawl on Anketell Street, Tuggeranong, about 3.20pm on a Friday afternoon.
“The basis for a lot of the crime is a number of the OMCG [outlaw motorcycle gang] members have left one gang and started up a new gang, so we’ve got internal fighting for dominance in Canberra. The one club wants to dominate the area of Canberra,” says Moller.
“If one club can dominate here, it secures a significant cash flow in terms of the supply of drugs, prostitution, and organised criminal activity.”
Since January 2018, ACT Policing has responded to 35 gang related incidents, including eight instances of shootings at a residential address or a person and seven arsons.
In response, ACT Policing’s bikie busting unit, Taskforce Nemesis, has conducted 78 raids, and seized 22 firearms and $61,750 in cash.
As a result, police have laid 73 charges against gang members.
In one high profile arrest, Comanchero, Axel Sidaros, has been charged with attempted murder over the targeted shooting attack on Mr Zdravkovic.
Mr Sidaros has pleaded not guilty and has been remanded in custody.
Mr Zdravkovic has also been charged in relation to the incident and has also pleaded not guilty.
Despite the number of arrests, Moller warns Canberrans to expect further clashes into the future.
“If one club can dominate, then it will be very profitable for them [but] it’s a little bit harder now, because there’s four different groups that are all trying to do the same thing.
“The environment is unstable and I think we’re going to continue to see violence between the groups for that dominance.”
So how did we get here? How did Canberra find itself the focus of so much bikie-related attention?The emergence of the Finks is just the latest twist in the evolving story of outlaw motorcycle clubs in the ACT-region.
The Canberra-region is now home to chapters of four gangs: Rebels, Comanchero, Finks, and Nomads.
Canberra has had to become accustomed to inter-club violence since the Rebels stanglehold on the region slipped in late 2014.
At its peak, the Rebels had an estimated six chapters and more than 60 members locally, with more on the south coast.
However, conflict within the Rebels saw a Comanchero chapter emerge, with a number leaving the club before patching over to the rival gang.
The Rebels dominance was rocked again with the mass defection of southside Rebels who established a Nomads ACT chapter in early 2016, sparking clashes with the Comanchero.
The Rebels grip on Canberra finally slipped in late 2016, when about 20 members – including then ACT president Ali Bilal – handed in their colours and left the gang.
The remaining Rebels now operate from Yass and appear to be a spent force in Canberra. However, ACT Policing still keeps a close watch on their activities.
The mass resignations and defections meant the number of patched bikies in the capital dropped to between 20 to 50 by the end of 2016.
But police believe recruitment and the Finks establishment has seen that number again jump to about 60.
It is understood there could be up to 30 gang associates in addition to patched members.
The Comanchero has a long history of internal ructions and its leadership has been unstable for some time.
Canberrans witnessed that instability firsthand when a brawl erupted at a Fyshwick strip club during the Comanchero national run last year after what is thought to have been a dispute between Victoria and NSW.
As previously reported, recent internal conflict started when national president Mark Buddle fled to Europe in 2016 but still claimed national leadership.
That split members between the offshore leader and senior gang figure, Mick Murray, who took over the top job in Buddle’s absence.
Buddle had warned members about that time, via text message last year – in which he declared himself commander of the world – to stop infighting.
The ACT chapter was not isolated from interstate turmoil, and eventually fractured along factional lines which one group then joining the Finks, police say.
The Finks strength took a significant hit in 2013 when an estimated 90 per cent of its members nationally patched over to US-gang the Mongols.
Only a handful of Finks chapters survived and underwent a significant change, which included a new, more aggressive rebrand of the club’s Bung emblem and an alliance with the Comanchero.
The remaining Finks, however, angrily denied becoming a client club for the Comanchero and have slowly rebuilt their strength via recruitment.
The recent outbreak of hostilities between the Finks and Comanchero in the territory indicates the alliance is now dead, in Canberra at least.
Superintendent Moller says clubs are “aligned as long as they’re making money”.
And the shifting club alliances and allegiance also extends to its members.
In the past, bikies would remain loyal to a club for life, while patching over – or switching gangs – to a rival group was seen as a treacherous act punishable by retribution by former associates seeking payback.
Moller says that no longer applies.
“It’s about which club is more profitable for them as individuals.”
A turf war between the Comanchero and Nomads was responsible for a number of shootings and arsons in 2017.
Police say the Nomads are a significant OMCG’s club and prevalent in the ACT who at the moment are flying under the radar.
Michael Clark, a former senior Rebel and founding Nomads ACT chapter president, is believed to have recently risen to Nomads national president.
In a provocative act that would have been unthinkable in a number of other states the club conducted a weekend ride through in the ACT in August wearing full club regalia while posing for group pictures on the summit of Mount Ainslie, sparking renewed calls for anti-consorting laws in the ACT.
Cracking down on the club has been a high priority for authorities and ACT Policing has dedicated significant resources to the task.
“We’ve diverted experienced investigators into tackling this growing problem of violence attributed to criminal gangs,” says Moller.
He says recent legislative reforms targeting gang specific activity, including crime scene powers, confiscation of criminal assets and specific charges for publicly discharging a firearm to target drive-bys, had enhanced police ability to respond to and prosecute criminal activity.
ACT Policing has also created an ACT working group – based on the national anti-gang squad model – which involves a whole of government strategy.
Members of the working group includes Australian Crime Commission, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, Housing ACT, NSW Police, Australian Border Force, Department of Human Services, and Australian Taxation Office.
The concept is based on famed lawman Eliot Ness’s strategy to takedown organised crime groups in the United States and led to gangster Al Capone’s famous conviction and jailing for tax evasion.
It works by pressuring gang members through the combination of policing and administration to disrupt their lifestyle and ensure they do not benefit from crime.
Despite the legislative support, the ACT Government has repeatedly ruled out introducing anti-consorting laws – which are in force in NSW, Victoria, and Queensland – over concerns the measures could be incompatible with human rights legislation.
A Canberra Liberals bill to create a new control order regime to limit activities between members of criminal organisations was voted down in the ACT Legislative Assembly in November.
NSW this week announced it would introduce laws to make it easier for police to raid and shut down bikie clubhouses.
Police in Canberra have had an impact, and are alive to the growing bikie interest in the ACT. But with the complicated power plays between rival gangs yet to reach its natural conclusion, it looks likely it will be some time yet before Canberrans will be able sleep easily in their beds.