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Police link Bandidos to Tasmanian arrests as anti-bikie laws head to parliament

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A loaded shotgun beside a bed, thousands of dollars worth of illegal drugs, stolen property and a break-in, all in a matter of days with Tasmania Police alleging those responsible have bikie links.

Wednesday's announcement by one of the state's most senior officers, which detailed a litany of serious crimes and subsequent arrests, marked a change in tactics, with the naming and shaming of so-called outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) as being allegedly involved.

The tough line comes as the Tasmanian Liberal Government prepares to put its controversial anti-bikie legislation before Parliament this week.

The legislation, which proposed eight amendments to Tasmanian laws, including a ban on the wearing of club colours in public and making it illegal for gang members to associate with each other or known criminals, was put to the public for consultation.

Last week, the submissions were made public, revealing an overwhelmingly negative response to the proposals, with many complaining about what they said would be the unfair treatment of innocent motorcycle enthusiasts.

But police said it was the fear of retribution which was behind the lack of support for law changes.

Police previously conceded the bikies were winning the public relations war, but said today the new move to name and shame clubs was not part of a fightback for the hearts and minds of Tasmanians.

"Enough is enough," Acting Assistant Commissioner Tony Cerritelli said.

"We've decided to name up exactly what's out there instead of remaining silent, especially when there are comments claiming that their activities are lawful and in line with civic morals and norms."

 

Tasmania Police have said five drug arrests were made during this month's Operation Vitreus, an annual national campaign involving federal and state law enforcement agencies.

They included:

  • A 49-year-old Devonport man, known to be an associate of outlaw motorcycle gangs including the Finks, Outlaws and the Devil's Henchmen for more than 20 years, who was charged with possessing a banned firearm and other firearm offences.
  • A 26-year-old Devonport woman and confirmed Bandidos associate, who was also present at the address and allegedly in possession of a quantity of cannabis.
  • Another 26-year-old Devonport woman and known associate of the Bandidos who will face court for allegedly selling a controlled plant product and firearm offences.
  • A 40-year-old Bandidos member who was charged over a number of outstanding matters including alleged burglary, evade police (aggravated circumstances), drive disqualified and other traffic offences.
  • A 37-year-old Burnie woman and known Bandidos associate who will face court over allegedly selling methylamphetamine, or ice, after her residence was searched as part of the operation.

Police did not stop there, revealing two men arrested after a break-in at the Penguin Sports Complex early Tuesday morning were known associates of the Bandidos and wearing Bandidos clothing at the time of their arrest.

A 41-year-old Penguin man was charged with burglary and stealing in relation to the incident - police said when they searched his home they found a loaded shotgun beside the bed.

They also charged a 31-year-old man with alleged unlawful possession of stolen property, drug offences including selling a controlled drug, and firearms offences, including failing to properly store firearms and ammunition.

"I think these types of cases highlight that we're not chasing them because they are outlaw motorcycle groups, we're chasing criminals and they just happened to be outlaw motorcycle gang offenders," Acting Assistant Commissioner Cerritelli said.

"On many occasions, those offenders who are involved in drug trafficking are directly involved in outlaw motorcycle gangs."

 

Acting Assistant Commissioner Cerritelli said the fact only one of those arrested was an actual member, rather than just an associate, of the Bandidos did not mean OMCGs were not behind the crimes.

He said it typical for OMCGs to "outsource" criminal activity to junior members or those on the fringes, to safeguard actual members, a manner he likened to "the Mafia".

"Superficially they come across as law-abiding citizens, but underneath they have a very good business model and we don't want that business model to grow in Tasmania," Acting Assistant Commissioner Cerritelli said.

The Bandidos are the latest gang to set up in Tasmania, with a large contingent visiting the state in late 2017.

In its submission opposing the proposed bikie laws, the Bandidos argued "no existing member had engaged in serious criminal activities" in Tasmania, to the "very best of our knowledge".

The club also said the accusation its members were involved in the ice drug trade is "categorically refuted and is completely unsubstantiated".

However, Tasmania Police said the recent arrests of six people with Bandidos links for serious crimes ran counter to that claim.

"I consider that might even be the tip of the iceberg," Acting Assistant Commissioner Cerritelli said.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, crime, police, drugs-and-substance-abuse, tas