Former boxer charged as bikie gangs recruit more muscle
Cameron Houston and Maris Beck
September 12, 2010
Tosca Petridis in his boxing days.
A FORMER champion boxer who recently joined the Finks motorcycle gang has been charged over an alleged assault outside a Melbourne bar that left a man with a broken jaw and fractured cheek.
The alleged attack comes as bikie gangs bolster their ranks with known underworld figures and violent thugs - a tactic which has led authorities to form a multi-agency taskforce involving Victoria Police and the Australian Crime Commission.
The escalating violence in Melbourne involving bikie gangs - particularly the Bandidos, Comancheros and the Finks, which all set up Victorian bases last year after other states introduced tough anti-association laws - will put added pressure on Premier John Brumby to follow suit.
In the latest incident, Tosca Petridis, a former Australian cruiserweight champion, is alleged to have bashed a man in front of the Fashion Lounge bar on Flinders Lane last month. The 43-year-old was recently recruited by the Finks and has links to the security firm used by Fashion Lounge.
The Finks are the subject of a separate police investigation over a brawl near King Street strip club Showgirls Bar 20, which involved up to 10 members of the gang.
A Victoria Police spokeswoman confirmed Petridis had been charged, but would not discuss the case.
A director of the Fashion Lounge, who refused to give his name, said the bar had no comment.
In February 2009, Prahran police were forced to evict Petridis from a Chapel Street club after he threatened a manager. A police van was damaged by an associate of Petridis, but no charges were laid after the venue's owners refused to assist with the investigation.
Police concerns about the growing power of bikie gangs in Melbourne have been fuelled by some gangs' recruitment of high-level criminals, many with a background in kickboxing or mixed martial arts.
A senior police source said some of the new gang members had never ridden a motorcycle, but the clubs wanted them for their muscle and they wanted to join bikie gangs to expand their criminal influence.
''These blokes are only interested in expanding their criminal networks. They [motorcycle gangs] are increasingly sophisticated organisations, but many of them wouldn't even know how to start a bike,'' the source said.
The Bandidos have aligned themselves with several former heavyweight kickboxers, including Toby Mitchell and the Zakharia brothers.
Mitchell was named by the Purana taskforce as a suspect in the underworld murder of Mark Mallia in 2003.
Nick Zakharia, a former winner of the Mr Australia bodybuilding competition, was jailed for three years in 1990 after he was caught posting cocaine from the United States, while older brother George was imprisoned for robbery in the 1980s.
The Bandidos are believed to be responsible for a string of savage beatings, including that of former Heat nightclub manager Robert Bottazzi in March, over his failure to settle a debt.
The Comancheros also established a Melbourne base last year and promptly appointed convicted heroin trafficker and former kickboxer Amad ''Jay'' Malkoun as the club's Victorian president.
The Age recently revealed an international drug importation ring with links to the Comancheros, Chinese triads and corrupt maritime workers.