How Asian police are set to fight back against Australian Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs
It’s so bad now in Thailand, authorities have begun to deploy an extraordinary paramilitary response.
And the Thais are set to go further with proposed parliamentary legislative changes to go after Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs as proscribed organised crime groups, reviewing their visas and launching legal challenges to their wealth gained from apparently no work.
With minimal noise, leading figures from seven Australian OMCGs predominantly from NSW, Queensland and South Australia have moved overseas recruiting local members to bolster their numbers and regional influence, plotting to control sex and vice industries, massage and tattoo parlours, gyms and fitness centres and in some cases large-scale drugs trafficking.
An investigation by News Corp Australia has found in Thailand alone, 36 chapters have been established by Australian-led or affiliated OMCG members, particularly about popular tourist resort cities of Pattaya, Phuket and Chiang Mai and capital Bangkok.
Chapters have also been established in Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, through a bunch of shelf companies, and soon also Laos and Vietnam while in Japan there is now evidence OMCG Australian affiliates have linked with the fearsome Yakuza.
In Myanmar known Australian gangsters are sourcing drugs to on-send to Australia and recruiting locals to protect their hauls through to shipment stage. Other drugs, predominantly meth and precursor chemicals are being sourced from China and India but transiting Thailand and Malaysia.
Such is their reach, an “Asian chapter” led by Australians and Germans is being set up also in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
At least one dozen suspects in Thailand alone are known to Australian authorities but have been moving freely, displaying their colours and setting up ostentatious clubhouses free, until now, from scrutiny with local authorities having seen them as “social motorbike clubs”. Last week three were arrested in raids that yielded drugs and weapons with another four on the run.
Thai authorities are now reacting, prepping their elite paramilitary Arintaraj 26 Special Operations Unit of the Thai Royal Police for further raids.
The scale of OMCG transplanting operations from Australia to Asia including buying real estate and businesses, “marrying” local brides and taking out residency visas might largely have continued unnoticed except for a spree of violence and new intelligence tracking drugs transiting Thailand to Australia.
Warnings by the Australian Federal Police of violent open gang warfare between rival groups in Australia that could happen offshore was now being heard notably in Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
Thai authorities have branded their own country a “drugs superhighway” for third country transit, just last week more than 80kgs of Ice with a street value of $6 million en route from Songkhla province in Thailand to Kedah in north western Malaysia was intercepted by authorities with Australia to have been the final destination.
Recently leaked Panama Papers detailing millions of offshore financial movements can also now be linked to OMCG, notably money laundering and establishment of front companies to operate “boiler rooms” for high pressure selling of investments that may or may not exist.
Intelligence has found “millions” of dollars had been allegedly fleeced from ordinary Australians by OMCG-linked front companies running hard-selling “boiler rooms”, predominantly in Thailand and the Philippines,
Fears of extortion and intimidation had already been reported by communities to local Thai police.
“Thailand is a honey pot for them they are not coming here to retire, that would be a naive view and you only need to look at not only the US but our history,” one Australian law enforcer said.
That history has included violent turf wars between gangs, widespread organised crime centred about drug and chemicals trafficking and organised hits on rivals.
AFP’s organised crime manager Commander Bruce Hill declined to go into specifics but confirmed the AFP was working closely with Thai counterparts who now understood the “exponential” OMCG growth and danger in their country.
“Taking the old Al Capone analogy, the AFP with our partners are disrupting the (OMCGs) anyway we can,” he told News Corp Australia.
“We will do this within the legal frameworks, whether is it our laws, their laws, immigration laws, tax laws etc. Whatever we can do to create a hostile environment, that’s what we are all about now.”
He said the AFP couldn’t say how many Australian OMCG members were now offshore.
“What we can say is, the clubs are expanding and Thailand is a perfect example that their growth is exponential. Thailand is a great place the OMCG’s want to go to, but then you start looking at Vietnam, Cambodia all those countries are seeing these OMCGs developing. They most certainly weren’t there previously. The cancer is growing, it is cancer and if you don’t leach the cancer it is just going to continue growing.”
TASK FORCE STORM
Taskforce Storm is the only bilateral police operation of its type in Thailand that links the Australian Federal Police with four critical divisions of Thai law enforcement that in 18 months has seized more than 3000kgs of drugs in both Thailand and Australia worth AUD$1 billion.
The covert operation, re-signed between the Australian and Thai governments for a second year last week, involves Thailand’s Office of Narcotics Control Board, Anti Money Laundering Office, Department of Special Investigations and Royal Thai Police.
Last month, critical intelligence received from Thai authorities through the AFP’s Bangkok Post and Taskforce Storm led to the largest ever seizure of drug precursor chemicals at Australia’s borders with the seizure of 3.9 tonnes of liquid ephedrine concealed in bottles of green tea. Another 350 kilograms of methamphetamine concealed in buckets of plaster was also found and several arrests made in both countries.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said Storm’s work on transnational crime syndicates and child exploitation had been successful.
“It’s part of the strategy we have to send law enforcement out into the world to work side-by-side with local policing authorities to do what we can to address the global nature of these drug syndicates that seek to peddle drugs to Australia,” he said.
He added the threat of Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs (OMCG) was something the joint authorities worked closely on.
Last August, police force chiefs from across South East Asia gathered in Bali for the annual Australian Federal Police led forum on crime trends in the region.
The AFP had long spoken about the dangers posed by Outlaw Motor Cycle Gangs (OMCG) from Australia which were shifting operations to the region to avoid police scrutiny.
“Don’t accept they are just setting up a motorcycle clubs in say Pattaya and Phuket, these people are evil, they are organised crime and you need to wake up and get ready for it,” they warned.
They got acknowledging head nods but then the AFP showed a CCTV video of an all in brawl of Comanchero bikers at a strip club in Canberra from earlier that month.
The group were on a national run to Canberra with about 100 members from NSW, Victoria, Queensland and but an internal dispute led to a shirts-off brawl in the strip joint, club members beating themselves unconscious with the CCTV showing one member glassing himself in the face behind leaping into the fracas.
“They smashed the hell out of each other and this is the same tribe,” the audience were told of the contemporary video.
“This is one gang, look at how brutal they are to themselves because of what is going on internally … if you don’t get in front of these people they could become entrenched.”
That video was enough for all police to agree to look at the OMCG issue in their own backyards.
In Asia, it had become apparent to Australian police that anyone riding a Harley were considered part of “high society” with lifestyle, disposable cash and nice bikes.
They organise rides to raise money for local infrastructure and charity and throw BBQ parties for community children.
But police have been at pains to point out is part of the cover to ingratiate with communities and disguise what some members are really up to with extortion, menace and trafficking as part of broader transnational crime groups.