Australia declares war on biker gangs

Govt tears up visas of 81 foreign gang members, says gangs' crimes cause misery and pain

SYDNEY • Australia declared war on outlaw motorcycle gangs yesterday, with the visas of more than 80 foreign nationals torn up in a crackdown on drug-dealing, extortion and gun-smuggling, which officials said were causing misery.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton revealed that 81 biker gang members have had their visas cancelled or refused since mid-2014, with 27 of them already kicked out of the country. The rest are in prison or immigration detention.

The government said the gang members were from several countries including New Zealand, Britain, Bosnia, Albania, Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

"Our government is very happy to declare war on outlaw motorcycle gang members," said Mr Dutton.

He added that they were "causing misery and pain to thousands of Australians" and "this government is determined to work to make sure that we can cancel visas of people who are non-citizens who are committing crimes in our country".

"I have no doubt these visa refusals or cancellations are disrupting the operations of these criminal organisations by removing key individuals from the hierarchies of the gangs along with their associates," Mr Dutton said.

Motorcycle gangs linked to organised crime are an increasing problem across Australia.

The government said there were 38 active biker gangs with 4,500 members and thousands more associates, including lawyers and accountants, with the most prominent including the Comancheros, the Rebels, Hells Angels and the Mongols.

The gangs are accused of drug dealing, extortion, money laundering, and the distribution of firearms and explosives with turf wars often leading to brazen violence.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan called them the "public face of organised crime in Australia".

"We know they are heavily involved in the drug trade, they continue to exert significant influence over Australia's other black markets," he said.

"They are involved in money laundering, they are involved in extortion, they are involved in gun smuggling and they are responsible for a high level of violence in the community."

"I want to reassure the Australian community that law enforcement agencies are using their full arsenal of capabilities and exploiting every opportunity to proactively target outlaw motorcycle gangs operating in Australia," Mr Keenan said.

The crackdown involves numerous government departments, including border force, immigration, and the tax office, working with police and the Australian Crime Commission's gangs intelligence unit.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Australia declares war on biker gangs'. Print Edition | Subscribe