Exclusive by the National Reporting Team's
Mark Willacy in Malta and Alison
about 5 hours ago
The boss of Australia's biggest outlaw
motorcycle club wants the High Court to overturn a decision by the Federal
Government to strip him of his visa, a move that has left him stranded on
the other side of the world.
In an exclusive interview with the ABC from his base in
Malta, Rebels Motorcycle Club president Alex Vella said the cancellation of
his visa on "character grounds" was a denial of natural justice.
"I'm innocent, I know that. I've done no wrong by nobody,
but they've shut the door on me and thrown me out of the country," he said.
Law enforcement agencies have told the ABC that the
stranding of Mr Vella in Malta has disrupted the Rebels and their
"There has been no person to step up and take over the
leadership role. I would say the leadership structure is in disarray,"
Detective Superintendent Deb Wallace of the NSW Gangs Squad said.
Mr Vella has been the national president of the Rebels
since 1973, presiding over a bikie club that has grown to be the biggest in
the country with more than 2,000 members.
"Our crime is nothing more than a little percentage of
what white collar people do," he said.
Rebels 'cohesive and disciplined' under Vella
"[Bikies] get the blame for a majority of the crime
committed in Australia, yet we make up 0.3 per cent of all crime committed,"
said his son Alex Vella Jnr, also a member of the Rebels, who spoke to the
ABC while visiting his father in Malta.
But in Federal Court documents obtained by the ABC, the
Government has alleged the Rebels are "high threat to the Australian
"Between January 2012 and June 2013, 718 Rebels MC
members, nominees and associates were either reported or arrested in
relation to 1,211 charges for offences ranging from violence-related
offences (including serious assault, stalking, kidnapping and affray),
firearms and weapons offences, drugs offences, and property, street and
"The Rebels MC have remained cohesive and disciplined
through Mr Vella's strong leadership," the documents read.
Superintendent Wallace is the also the chair of Operation
Morpheus, an anti-bikie taskforce made up of state and Commonwealth law
"We've certainly charged [Rebels] with fraud,
intimidation, extortion, kidnapping, attempted murder, murder. Alex Vella is
synonymous with the Rebels, " she said.
"Why should I take responsibility for [a club member] who
done wrong?" Mr Vella countered.
"That's for the law to do their job, not me."
"Members of the motorcycle club aren't saints obviously,"
Alex Vella Jnr added.
"But to brand them all criminals is just like saying all
Catholics are paedophiles."
Bikies top of deportation hit list: Dutton
Mr Vella and his legal team are seeking special leave
before the High Court because they say the Rebels president has been denied
natural justice under the Migration Act.
In March this year, Mr Vella appealed to the full bench of
the Federal Court to set aside the Immigration Minister's decision.
During proceedings, Justice Robert Buchanan questioned the
provisions in the Act being used by the Minister, saying he found "it
curious that Parliament thinks it can exclude part of the exercise of the
Questioning the section of the Act that allows the
minister to keep information secret on the say-so of intelligence services
such as ASIO, Justice Geoffrey Flick remarked that "it strikes me as
absurd", adding that "this case has got an air of unreality to it."
Despite these concerns, the full bench of the court upheld
the right of the Immigration Minister to keep Government evidence against
Alex Vella secret because it was "protected information".
"The Minister concedes that, in making the decision, he
acted on adverse information that he did not divulge to Mr Vella," the
"He says, however, that there was no denial of natural
justice because the adverse information was information, by reason of
[section] 503A of the Act, he was not required to divulge to Mr Vella ... In
short, the Minister says that [section] 503A of the Act overrides any
natural justice requirement to divulge the adverse information."
"It's a bunch of lies behind it, that's why," Mr Vella
"Why would you want to hide something if a man's done
wrong? Tell them. Tell the public what I've done. What's so secret about
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton would not comment on the
Vella case but said outlaw motorcycle gang members were at the top of his
hit-list for deportation, adding that 16 bikies had had their visas
cancelled since December last year.
"People who head outlaw motorcycle gangs, people who are
involved in the organisation and facilitation of criminal activities by
their members, well and truly are caught within the character test and
provisions of the Act," he said.
"They become the target of us trying to clean up our visa
system to make sure we maintain integrity in the visa system and exclude
these people from our society."
Federal Court challenge Vella's last hope
Having lost twice in the Federal Court, Mr Vella's legal
team now has one shot left to get the visa cancellation overturned and the
Rebels boss back to Australia.
"It would be premature for me to say he's got good
prospects or bad prospects, especially in light of the fact that we haven't
even heard what the High Court wants to do," Peter Webb, one of Mr Vella's
Mr Vella's wife Heather said the cost of failure for the
family would be devastating.