Armed police searching the South Island headquarters of international bikie gang, the Mongols MC, have made one arrest and recovered cash, a stolen vehicle and a loaded gun.
Dozens of police, including members of the National Organised Crime Group (NOCG), raided The Old Sawmill in Burnham, on the outskirts of Christchurch, and the local president’s Rolleston home, about 7am on Monday.
They recovered, $6000 cash, a stolen vehicle and a loaded semi-automatic .22 calibre firearm.
Police arrested one person for breach of bail. The man, aged 45, will appear in Christchurch District Court on Monday.
“The search warrants targeted a core group that are alleged to be involved in the importation, distribution and manufacture of illicit drugs throughout Christchurch,” Detective Inspector Julian Rinckes said.
Further searches and arrests could not be ruled out, he said.
Pavers Direct Limited is located at the Burnham property, and police could be seen searching the business on Monday.
Company director Matthew Bateman declined to comment on why the business was being raided and his involvement with the Mongols when contacted by Stuff.
The Mongols, led by national president Jim Thacker, established a chapter in the Bay of Plenty last year.
The gang expanded into the South Island earlier this year, creating tension among rival groups, particularly the Tribesmen MC, which was considered the dominant player in the region’s underworld at the time.
In separate attacks in February, believed to be targeted at the Mongols, a tattoo parlour and a barbershop were rammed by vehicles in Christchurch. The barbershop, which has no apparent link to the gang other than through a man who used to associate with the local president, was also firebombed.
The same month, the Mongols’ Burnham headquarters was shot at by someone wielding a high-calibre rifle.
Police raided the property several days later and found 10 guns – military-style semi-automatics, shotguns, and a pistol – some of which were hidden in the walls and ceiling, along with dozens of bullets, $50,000 cash and methamphetamine.
Another raid in May revealed drugs, firearms and stolen property.
Police Assistant Commissioner Richard Chambers told Stuff in May, police were recruiting seven staff, including five detectives, for the NOCG – the first in the South Island. It is based out of Christchurch and reports to police national headquarters.
There are similar units in Auckland, Wellington and Tauranga. Their sole focus is to target organised crime.
The group also supports existing organised crime teams in each of the three South Island police districts – Canterbury, Tasman and Southern.
Thacker, 28, a former president of a Bandidos chapter in Queensland, is among hundreds of hardened criminals, known as 501s, deported to New Zealand since 2014 changes to Australian immigration law.
The arrival of the 501s, named after the character section their visas were cancelled under, has radically changed New Zealand’s gang landscape.
New groups, most notably the Comanchero MC and Mongols, have established and, according to police data, gang membership increased nearly 50 per cent in the four years to June last year.
At the end of August last year, the national gang register carried the names of 71 of the 501s.
Police previously said many of the deported gang members were powerful and influential figures in the Australian underworld who brought with them professionalism, a new flashy image and significant international connections.
The Mongols gang took a huge blow in June this year when police searched 18 properties over two days in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty. The entire senior hierarchy of the bikie gang was arrested and 13 firearms were seized, including three loaded AK47s – Soviet-designed assault rifles – and two military-style semi-automatic firearms.
Other items seized in the raids included Molotov cocktails (glass bottles with flammable substances), a homemade bomb, drugs and cash.