A Canadian Hells Angels prospect sentenced to a 15-year prison term in Greece for his involvement in the beating death of a Greek citizen has returned to Alberta after serving just a few years of his sentence.
Shortly after being released from a Greek prison, Dustin Swanson returned to the Edmonton area and started working as a tattoo artist at Three Monkeys Tattoo & Lifestyle Apparel in Spruce Grove. On Facebook, the shop introduced him as a new artist on Aug. 19.
CBC contacted Three Monkeys on Oct. 23 and asked to speak to Swanson. A staff member said he had just stepped out, but agreed to relay the message. Swanson did not return the call, or respond to a Facebook message.
Swanson, now 38, was a Hells Angels hopeful when he and two other Alberta bikers travelled to Greece in June 2015 for the outlaw motorcycle gang’s global convention on the island of Corfu.
‘Intentional fatal injury’
Swanson’s companions — Nick Dragich and Brent Koziak — were patched Hells Angels, which means they were full members.
Swanson, Dragich and Koziak were arrested for a June 7, 2015, assault on a 41-year-old man. At the time, Greek police said the man suffered grievous head injuries and was transported to a hospital in Athens. He later died.
Swanson was convicted in 2016 of perpetrating an intentional fatal injury in the first degree, according to Greek lawyer Ioakim Georgoudis, who represented the widow of the man who died.
Swanson was handed a 15-year sentence. Dragich and Koziak were sentenced to eight-year terms after being found guilty of having been accomplices in the attack.
All three men appealed, but only Dragich and Koziak were successful. The two patched members each paid €20,000 to be released on bail. They were later deported by Greek police who cited public safety concerns, according to Georgoudis.
Toronto lawyer Victoria Boucovala, who formerly practised criminal law in Greece, reviewed the statement provided by Georgoudis.
Boucovala explained in an email that intentional fatal injury is the most serious type of assault charge in Greek law.
According to Georgoudis, the clock on Swanson’s sentence started when he was taken into custody in June 2015.
He was released in August of this year after being given credit for having served three-fifths of his sentence.
Georgoudis explained that in Greece, prisoners are able to rack up two days of credit for each day they spend working or in training, and that because Swanson earned enough credit to total nine years, he was released.
Back in the fold
Alberta law enforcement confirmed Swanson’s return to the province in August.
Calgary Police Service Sgt. Dave Mills, who works on local and national policing strategy to monitor and combat outlaw motorcycle gangs, said Swanson was a “hang-around” with the Hells Angels in 2015 — a starting position on the path to becoming a full-patch member.
After about five years as an “official friend” of the club, a prospect can become a hang-around, which involves paying dues and helping out with tasks like security and bartending.
As a new hang-around, Swanson would have gone on the Greece trip so the two full-patch members could get to know him.
“He’s there, somebody to be subservient to them, to assist them in their journey,” Mills said.
The killing in Greece did not go over well with the club, Mills said.
“I know it angered other Hells Angels because they didn’t want that image of an innocent individual being murdered,” he said.
However, quietly serving jail time could have been viewed as an asset because it indicates he did not co-operate with police, Mills said.
Hells Angels ‘threat to public safety’
Mills said Swanson was “welcomed right back into the Hells Angels fold” upon his return to Canada. He said it is concerning to police that an individual who killed someone abroad was able to return home after such a short time, and with no enforceable parole conditions.
Mills said police monitor every known member of all outlaw motorcycle gangs in Alberta, though the Hells Angels remain the most dominant organization. As the largest outlaw motorcycle gang in the world, it seeks out members who are loyal and good earners.
Mills said there is an enduring myth that the Hells Angels is a normal riding club whose members take part in benign causes such as raising money for charity.
“Contrary to any belief or any image they try to portray, they are a threat to public safety.”
The Canadian government hasn’t been able to provide much clarity about Swanson’s return.
In an emailed statement, the Correctional Service of Canada confirmed Swanson is not under its jurisdiction.
A request for information about Swanson sent to Canada’s embassy in Greece prompted an email response from Global Affairs Canada.
“Global Affairs Canada provided consular services to a Canadian citizen formerly detained in Greece. Consular officials were in contact with local authorities. Due to the provisions of the Privacy Act, no further information can be disclosed,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.