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Rebels boss Alex Vella, stranded in Malta, launches last-ditch bid to return to Australia

By the National Reporting Team's Mark Willacy

Rebels boss Alex Vella has been stranded in Malta since June last year.

ABC: Mark Willacy
Lawyers for the boss of Australia's biggest bikie club will today launch a last-ditch legal bid to have him allowed back into the country.

Rebels Motorcycle Club president Alex Vella was stripped of his residency visa by the Abbott government last year because "the [Immigration] Minister reasonably suspected that Mr Vella did not pass the character test and was satisfied that the cancellation would be in the national interest".

The decision was taken while the veteran bikie, who held Australian residency for 47 years but not citizenship, was on a visit to his birthplace of Malta.

He has been stranded there ever since. Mr Vella's wife, children, grandchildren and elderly mother live in Sydney.

Mr Vella has been the national president of the Rebels since 1973, presiding over a club that has grown to be the biggest in the country with more than 2,000 members.

But police say the Rebels are one of the country's most dangerous and violent outlaw motorcycle gangs.

"We've certainly charged people with fraud, intimidation, extortion, kidnapping, attempted murder, murder," NSW Police Gangs Squad leader Deb Wallace said in an interview in July.

"Alex Vella is synonymous with the Rebels."

But in an exclusive interview with the ABC from his base in Malta in July, Mr Vella denied he was involved in any criminality.

"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.

"Why should I take responsibility for [a club member] who done wrong? That's for the law to do their job, not me."

Mr Vella's previous legal challenges to the stripping of his visa, including the most recent appeal to the full bench of the Federal Court, failed to get the minister's decision overturned.

In March this year, the court upheld the right of the Immigration Minister to keep Government evidence against the Rebels boss secret because it was "protected information".

In Federal Court documents obtained by the ABC, the Government alleged the Rebels were a "high threat to the Australian community".

"The Rebels [Motorcycle Club] have remained cohesive and disciplined through Mr Vella's strong leadership," the documents read.

Speaking to the ABC in July, Mr Vella dismissed the claims and challenged the Federal Government to release any information it has on him.

"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 it?" he said.

The High Court in Sydney will today hear an application by lawyers for the Rebels leader for special leave to appeal the ruling.

Mr Vella said he had been denied natural justice under the Migration Act.

"The strike rate for applicants for special leave is relatively low," said Ross Martin QC, Professor of Law at Brisbane's Griffith University.

"In criminal matters, I understand about 10 per cent or perhaps even less applicants typically get special leave."

If special leave is granted, Mr Vella's appeal will be heard before a full bench of the High Court.

Mr Martin QC said if an application for special leave is rejected, there is usually no other avenue for appeal.

"There are always exceptions to these things, but for all practical purposes that's the end of the matter," he said.

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