News from NZ Police
Police in Nelson kept a close watch on motorbike riders who chose to continue with a poker run, despite the hosts, the Red Devils, being unable to attend.
All members of the Red Devils and a number of their associates remain in custody after brief appearances at the Nelson District Court this morning.
Fourteen people will reappear in Court on Tuesday and three have been remanded in custody until 1 April.
Meanwhile members of the Hells Angels took over organisation of the poker run, which police said attracted about 80 riders at its peak, but had dwindled to about 60 once the ride got under way.
Nelson Bays Area Commander, Inspector Brian McGurk, said Police followed the poker run and received tremendous support from the general public along the way.
“Our job is to ensure people’s safety and the public were clearly appreciative of that.”
Inspector McGurk said Police were delighted that the licensees at virtually all bars visited by the poker run declined to entertain the event.
Police set up a road block during the run, breath testing riders and checking the roadworthiness of bikes.
In total 43 infringement notices were given out and eight bikes were green stickered.
Inspector McGurk said Nelson Police would continue to monitor the visiting Hells Angels and other bikers closely until they departed the area.
News from NZ
Police in the Tasman District yesterday revealed they had infiltrated the highest echelons of the Red Devils and Hells Angels gangs, with undercover Police Officers gaining gang membership and providing detailed information about the gang’s offending, intentions and activities over many months.
Early yesterday morning, the Defence Force flew 80 Police staff from Wellington and Auckland to Nelson assist local Police and NZ Customs with raids on the properties of Red Devils gang members and associates.
Tasman District Commander, Superintendent Gary Knowles said that since the Red Devils first appeared in the District two years ago Police had maintained that they were a puppet gang for the Hells Angels and were heavily involved in organised crime.
“The gang’s supporters and their legal representatives have constantly denied these claims. What we have revealed is the extent of the gang’s firearms trading, the work they have done to develop drug supply lines, extortion, burglaries and moving stolen property around the country.
“The fact they are now manufacturing explosive devices to be used against members of the public underpins the danger these criminals pose to this community.
“These gangs are not a bunch of good old boys with bikes, they are organised, criminals and they are not welcome in this community,” Superintendent Knowles said.
By 3pm, Police had searched 31 properties in Nelson, Mapua, Motueka, Takaka, Picton and Blenheim and seized the gang’s Natalie Street pad, along with a range of other assets.
Twenty eight people are now in custody facing charges ranging from dealing class A, B and C drugs, including LSD, ecstacy and methamphetamine, to being a member of an organised crime group under Section 98A of the Crimes Act.
Police have seized 11 motorbikes and a range of firearms including rifles, shotguns and pistols, some of which are cut-down rifles. Two pipe bombs were also recovered.
“This is a real concern and highlights the fact that the stakes have been raised in terms of public safety. Explosive devices are only made with the intention of killing or causing serious damage to life and property.
The headquarters of the Hells Angels at 28 Brentwood Ave, Mt Eden in Auckland and another private address in Auckland were also searched as part of this operation.
“What we have achieved today is the culmination of an overt and covert operation that is part of a long-term strategy to address organised crime in the top of the South,” Superintendent Knowles said.
“We have successfully undermined this gang and our focus will now move to other like-minded groups.”
During the 18-month operation undercover officers gained access to gang members’ homes and businesses, and most significantly their gang pads. One of the undercover agents became a member of the gang, gaining free access to the fortified gang headquarters and attending secret meetings of the gang’s inner sanctum, allowing valuable evidence to be collected.
Hells Angels HQ infiltrated
Deputy Commissioner of Police Rob Pope said that the Nelson operation was a crucial part of the over-arching national strategy against organised crime and had enabled Police to seriously undermine the Hells Angels gang.
“Undercover officers successfully infiltrated the Auckland and Wanganui chapters of the Hells Angels gang, gathering evidence against members and entering their gang headquarters. This level of infiltration would not have been possible without the backing of the Nelson Red Devils gang.”
“The Hells Angels welcomed the agent into the fold, inviting the undercover officer into their Auckland pad at 28 Brentwood Ave in Mt Eden and allowing the officer to ride with them on their recent poker run,” Deputy Commissioner Pope said.
““The Red Devils and Hells Angels also facilitated one of our undercover officers gaining access to the headquarters of the Head Hunters gang in Auckland.”
He said the information gathered enabled Police to establish the level of control and direction the Hells Angels had over the formation of the Red Devils in Nelson.
“There is no doubt that the intention was for the Nelson Red Devils to eventually morph into a Hells Angels chapter,” Deputy Commissioner Pope said.
He praised the work of the Police investigation team and Undercover Programme involved in the build up and execution of today’s successful termination. “Those involved in this operation have conducted their duties to the very highest standard,” he said. “Without their total dedication, infiltrations to the extent achieved could never have happened. The Police have done the community a great service in exposing these criminals.”
He also praised the NZ Defence and Customs for their role in the operation. “The inter-agency partnerships we operate underpin a whole of Government committment to the disruption and dismantling of organised crime in New Zealand,” he said.
“By collaborating we are able to draw on the collective knowledge, expertise and resources to ensure effective targeting of organised crime groups and members.”
More news from NZ
An operation by OFCANZ and Tasman District Police ended with an early morning raid on the Red Devil gang headquarters in Nelson yesterday.
By early afternoon 15 members of the gang or their associates had been arrested and over 20 search warrants executed.
Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess, head of OFCANZ said the raid ended the 18 month-long Operation Explorer and was a further outcome of a concerted national focus on fighting organised crime.
“When OFCANZ was established in 2007 we said nothing would happen overnight and that we were in this for the long term results.”
“We are now seeing the results of a whole range of agencies working together to disrupt and dismantle organised criminal networks in this country.
“Police and OFCANZ were assisted by customs, NZDF and other agencies in the course of Operation.”
“We are particularly grateful for Defence Force assistance given the pressing commitments they have at the moment both domestically and internationally.”
Yesterday’s activities follow a successful police operation in Palmerston North last month targeting the Rebels Motorcycle Gang.
“We have said we will keep coming. We want gangs to know that we have them firmly in our sights.”
“This has disrupted the work of the Red Devils, an organised criminal network that passes itself off as a “social club” but which is basically a training ground for would-be Hells Angels,” Mr Burgess said.
Members of the Hells Angels gang were also feeling the effects of having their trainee gang infiltrated, with warrants carried out in Auckland at the same time.