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Fire at bikie clubhouse in Bendigo ‘suspicious' as police raid Bandidos club in Melbourne's north in bikie gang crackdown

AUTHORITIES believe a fire at a bikie clubhouse in Bendigo this morning was deliberately lit.

Firefighters were called to the blaze on Havilah Rd, Long Gully, at the Satan's Soldiers clubhouse just after 1.30am.

The fire had started at the rear of the unoccupied weatherboard shed before causing extensive damage.

No one was injured in the fire.

It took 30 firefighters an hour to bring the blaze under control.

While the cause of the fire is still unknown, police are treating it as suspicious and local crime investigation detectives will attend the scene.

It comes as raids on Bandidos strongholds found drugs and ammunition stashed in the bikie gang's Brunswick fortress.

Echo Taskforce detectives and members of the critical incident response team and Santiago Taskforce executed warrants at the Weston St headquarters today.

It is the clubhouse where members were drinking before an incident in which they were shot at at Melton on Friday night.

The taskforce is now monitoring all club activity after the wild ambush on the Bandidos by rivals the Hells Angels.

Bandidos raid, Brunswick

Police - led by detectives and members of the Santiago taskforce - move in on the Bandidos inner-city headquarters in Brunswick this afternoon. Picture: Channel 7

Senior Bandido Toby Mitchell was shot in a bicep during the gunfire, at the Diablos club.

The national Bandido Sgt-at-Arms has since been released from hospital after surgery.

This afternoon, Echo Taskforce detectives arrived about 1.30pm to find no-one at the club and called Mitchell to let them in.

Another sergeant-at-arms arrived minutes later with a key.

It's understood the man - who made an obscene gesture towards photographers - is a relative of Bandido Nick Zakharia, who is a former Mr Australia bodybuilding champion.

Inside, investigators found bullets for a .22 rifle as well as unspecified drugs.

The raid follows on the heels of a string of raids and arrests on Wednesday amid a statewide operation to keep close tabs on the outlaws.

Bikie raid uncovers nail bomb, ammo


More bikies heading our way

The Herald Sun has also learned hundreds of interstate bikies are about to descend on Melbourne en masse.

Outlaw bikies from the Finks outlaw motorcycle club will hold their national run this weekend.

More than 300 members from Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales will descend on the Finks’ Bertie St, Port Melbourne headquarters on Saturday night.

Members are expected to begin flying in from today from WA and SA, while at least 100 bikies are set to thunder out from Port Melbourne to meet other comrades travelling from the northern and eastern states along on the Hume Highway near Glenrowan, before riding back with them to party at the clubhouse.

The Comancheros have also indicated they may drop in on the Finks’ party.

The Finks are aligned with Bandidos, as well as being friendly with the Comancheros.

On April 6, the Comancheros themselves are expected to have their run in Victoria with more than 100 bikies, on the same day as the the Hells Angels national run.

But the Hells Angels are not planning their run in Victoria, and will instead descend on Darwin.

The Echo Taskforce say they have a plan in place to monitor the national runs.


Police rain hell on the Angels

Meanwhile, Hells Angels and associates were among the targets of police raids on Wednesday, with the bomb squad also called in.

bomb disposal robot, bikie raids, Elwood

Bomb disposal experts send in a robot following the discovery of a suspicious device found in McCarty St, Epping, linked to a series of bikie raids. Picture: Adam Elwood

Four men associated with Melbourne bikie clubs were charged last night at an out of sessions court.

Police also executed 15 warrants across Victoria after tensions escalated between members of the outlaw motorcycle gang the Hells Angels and the Bandidos.

Bomb response officers were called to one of 15 properties raided during a series of anti-bikie swoops that saw six people arrested.

And after a "suspicious" device was found at an address in McCarty Avenue, Epping, about 22km north of Melbourne's CBD, where a man was arrested, bomb response officers descended on the property.

Ten of the properties hit with search warrants were all premises connected to members and associates of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club.

Epping’s Benjamin Pegoraro, 23, was charged with eight counts of handling stolen goods and three counts of theft.

Daniel Pegoraro, 27, of Watsonia, was charged with two counts of handling stolen goods.

While Whittlesea’s Lee Whittaker, 29, was charged with five counts of handling stolen goods and possessing prohibited weapons and Azzam Halabi was charged with conduct endangering life.

They have all been remanded in custody and will appear at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.

Police have carried out dawn raids and arrested six people as part of their plan to foil Victoria's brewing bikie war


The raids come less than a week after the Hells Angels invaded a Bandido-aligned gang's clubhouse just before last Friday's ambush of Bandidos sergeant-at-arms Toby Mitchell, which saw him shot in the arm.

Yesterday, cash, drugs, a suspected incendiary device, imitation firearm, ammunition, an allegedly stolen jet-ski, hydroponic equipment, guns, cars, caravan, and an earth-mover were seized by police.

The arrests are the result of operation Resound which police revealed in the wake of concerns about a full-scale war looming between the Hells Angels and the Bandidos.



This comes after top cops announced a "sustained" operation in Victoria, codenamed Resound, in response. It will be led by the anti-bikie Echo Taskforce.

The people arrested were associates of bikie clubs, believed to be associates of the Hells Angels.

The bikies were expected to be taken to the crime squad headquarters in St Kilda Rd, in central Melbourne.

Two were charged and bailed by police with charges including cultivating and possession of a drug and outstanding warrants.

A 26-year-old man from Epping was charged with cultivating and possessing a drug of dependence and bailed to appear in court in May, while a 30-year-old man from Greenvale was arrested and bailed on an outstanding warrant.

Hells Angels

Hell's Angels motorcycle club base in Melbourne. 

A 52-year-old man from Epping was among three released pending further enquiries.


Raids across the state

Out-of-sessions court hearings were held for others arrested.

Police executed warrants at 15 locations on Wednesday across the state including:

Seven men were also arrested including:

Hydroponic set-ups were found at several properties.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said the raids were just part part of Operation Resound.

But amid the attempt to prevent fears of a bikie war, police say they are struggling to talk to members of the feuding clubs.

“We’ve been in communication with them, certainly with some protection initially. I think some of these players are trying to distance themselves from police at the moment,’’ Mr Fontana said.

“We’re trying to prevent any further activity and we’re just letting them know if you’re going to be out there offending we are going to be watching very closely and part of that is to reassure the community we are not going to stand by and let this situation escalate any further.

bomb disposal robot, bikie raids, Elwood

An officer leads a bomb dispoal robot into a property at McCarty St, Epping, amid a string of bikie raids. Picture: Adam Elwood

“Now we know there’s a feud going on, there’s a risk there, but we’re doing our best and we’re putting as many resources as we can into trying to keep this situation under control.’’

He predicted there would be a number of warrants and searches conducted over the coming weeks. 

Earlier, Deputy Commissioner Graham Ashton said the operation would continue until the threat of violence between the two deadly gangs "calmed down".

Police had "credible information" of a looming war, he said, warning members of both clubs that violence would not be tolerated.

Blitz amid fears of bikie war

The tension between the two gangs ratcheted up as a result of Hells Angels invading a Bandido-aligned gang's clubhouse just before last Friday's ambush of Bandidos sergeant-at-arms Toby Mitchell, which saw him shot in the arm.

The Angels are suspected of smashing security cameras during a "run-through" of the Melton clubhouse of the small outlaw gang the Diablos, before its members called on their Bandido mates for help.

Bandido strongman Mitchell, arriving at the scene, was hit for the second time in 16 months.

The Herald Sun has been told CCTV that could have captured the violence was smashed as Hells Angels members tore through the Norton Ave clubhouse.

Those cameras were covering an area around the clubhouse but were useless by the time the shooting occurred, about 10pm.

Toby Mitchell

The bad blood between the Bandidos and Hell's Angels is believed linked to the shooting of top Bandido Toby Mitchell.

As Bandidos pulled up on Friday night, dozens of shots were fired by men who had pulled up in as many as 10 vehicles.

Police declined to discuss possible motives for the shooting, but have confirmed talks with both clubs have achieved little.

It is suspected the Hells Angles' Thomastown Nomads chapter, considered enforcers, were responsible for the carnage, ramming a car containing Mitchell.

Police have held talks with both clubs, with members of the Hells Angels in particular giving no assurance of a truce.

An email circulated by force command warned the Bandidos were in conflict with the Angels, with threats of "escalating violence" over the Melton incident.

Among the Bandidos who had arrived at the Diablos when the shooting began was heavyweight boxer Nick Zakharia.

Zakharia, a Mr Australia body-building championship winner, was jailed in the 1990s for posting cocaine from the US.

He is an extremely well-connected figure in the Melbourne underworld and, with Mitchell, a member of the Bandidos' Brunswick chapter.

Mitchell was shot in a near-fatal ambush in November 2011 outside their clubhouse.

Satan's Soldiers MC logo

Logo of Satan's Soldiers outlaw motorcycle club. Picture: Satans Soldiers MC

A prominent Bandido has declined to comment on the situation. Bandidos were seen in the afternoon in Clarendon St, South Melbourne, in supporter gear.

"There are probably two clear messages here from us today, and that is if you are a member of an outlaw motorcycle gang or affiliated with one of these gangs and you are planning any escalation in violence, our message to you is quite clear that that will not be tolerated," Mr Ashton said.

He said the community should be reassured police would act "quickly and decisively".

"Our message to you is that will not be tolerated. We have a plan," he said.

Assistant Commissioner Stephen Fontana said the force had thrown its resources to target the gangs until the threat was over, including heavily armed critical incident response team, public order response, regional and road police.

Police officers have been warned to be aware gang members will be armed.

Mr Fontana said the "threat was real".

"I think when you've got very public shootings like we had last Friday night with over 30 shots and other activity, the threat is real," he said.

"The thing that concerns us is that it plays out in the public arena. Of course, we're out there every day pulling over motorists, checking people and we're sending out that caution.

"We have concerns about a few, it is escalating and we're warning our members to take care.

We don't want anyone getting hurt." An email sent to officers has warned them to take extra care when dealing with gang members.

The warning was issued after the shooting at Melton of top Bandido Toby Mitchell on the weekend.

Echo Taskforce talks with the leaders of the gangs has apparently failed, with fears national and even international members could influence the escalating feud.

"These people don't have any regard for the law ... we're going to try and stop that and we're asking them to just ease up," Mr Fontana said.

Mr Fontana said both groups had networks internationally and throughout Australia and could draw on them.

He also said gang members from Sydney who had based themselves in Melbourne, some of a Middle Eastern background, were having an influence.

The Hells Angels, who believe they are the strongest club in Melbourne, are outnumbered by most other major bikie gangs, including the Bandidos.



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