Home Bike News Rides Events Tech Links
Their island home ... Adam "Vigilante" Abbott and Mark Berry in the HD Bar. Photo: Supplied
THE decor at the Heavy Duty Bar just off Bali's tourist strip is pure bikie gang chic.
In the upstairs pool room, artwork of the skeleton-on-a-flaming-motorcycle school dominates one wall. A poster reads, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns". Ned Kelly and Southern Cross images suggest an Australian connection. It's 10.30pm and downstairs "hot girls" promised in the bar's advertising lounge around in micro-shorts and tight T-shirts.
They are bored. The poles in the corners stand ready for a performance, but are bare for lack of an audience. One lone customer sips his beer.
Members of the Rebel Motorcycle Club Bali chapter. Photo: Supplied
"To be honest, this is about as 'kicked-off' as it gets these days," says Mark Berry, the red-headed and muscle-bound manager.
The HD Bar on Jalan Patih Jelantik might be too far from Kuta's main nightclub strip to do much business, but Australian police believe it signals something else - Australian bikies are moving in on Australia's favourite holiday island.
The bar's part-owner, whose namecard reads Adam "Vigilante" Abbott, is an outlaw motorcycle gang member from Perth.
With his R5 rifle ... Adam "Vigilante" Abbott. Photo: Supplied
He's a patched member of Australia's biggest ''one per cent'' gang, the Rebels, which is the target of a new police crackdown called Taskforce Attero. Outlawed motorcycle gangs sometime refer to themselves as ''one percenters'', a descriptive term of disputed origins arising from a comment that 99 per cent of bikers are law-abiding citizens ''but there's that last 'one per cent' that are nothing more than outlaws''.
Abbott bought the bar from another West Australian bikie, Howard "Howie" Wignall, a 26-year veteran member of WA's most notorious gang, the Coffin Cheaters. Both men have a penchant for guns and have served time in jail.
But theirs are not the only bike gang insignia to be seen around Bali.
Aiming ... Jade Wignall, PR manager at Sky Garden nightclub. Photo: Supplied
They are part of what police believe is a broader push by several outlaw gangs.
The Bandidos have set up formal chapters in Bali, Bandung and Jakarta. Earlier this year the Australian president, Jason Addison, attended a rowdy ceremony to "patch over" dozens of new Indonesian members, inducting them formally into the gang.
The Finks and Rock Machine are also believed to be interested in Bali.
Neither federal nor state police would be interviewed for this story and it is understood they have no hard evidence yet of wrongdoing. But they believe the gangs are on the Indonesian party island for more than the surf.
As they come under increasingly heavy police scrutiny in Australia, gangs are believed to be exploring criminal opportunities in Indonesia including money laundering, the drug trade and smuggling.
Bali itself is a big market for drugs - particularly among the thousands of foreign tourists who land each week. Indonesia's lax laws governing the precursor chemicals used in drug manufacture mean substances such as ephedrine are widely available on the street. Its mainland has a growing drug market, consumer and producer.
The Australian Federal Police called a group of Indonesian counterparts together in a hotel in Bali early in 2012 for an "Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Forum" to warn about the potential threat to peace and public order on their doorstep.
But whether they do not recognise the threat, or they fear the impact on Bali's tourist industry if they talk about motorcycle gang activity, Bali police are so far not prepared to say much.
"We haven't really noticed any criminal activities," the Kuta police chief, I Gede Putu Dedy Ujiana, said. "Based on information from the internet, usually these groups will try to show their existence by showing their logo, but there has been none so far in Bali."
This is not strictly true.
The Bandidos, for one, have made no secret of their presence. In 2010 they held the first Bali Bike Week, attended by hundreds of gang members, many of them wearing patches. A video posted on YouTube shows a huge three-day outdoor party featuring bands, DJs, dancing girls and drinking by hundreds of leather-clad men.
The head of the organising committee for the event, Hari Wiguna, says on the video that 600 participants came from Europe, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and other parts of Indonesia to an event that included fund-raising for local orphanages, cleaning up the beaches and planting trees in Bali's main nightclub strip, Jalan Legian.
"We are doing this to introduce our new club, the Bandidos MC, to Indonesia," he says.
Adam Abbott and Howard Wignall both failed to respond to requests for comments for this story, but Mark Berry at the HD Bar said it was unfair to say they were part of a broader push by gangs. "Howie is the only Coffin Cheater in Bali, and Adam is the only Rebel," he said.
However, the Facebook page for "Rebels MC Bali" suggests otherwise. It depicts eight Indonesians and a western man, who may be Abbott, posing in their leathers with Rebels patches and a ''1%'' graphic.
Abbott and Wignall each has a significant criminal history and a deep interest in firearms. Their adopted country has strict gun laws, but these are undermined by weak enforcement and porous borders.
Abbott's Facebook page shows him carrying a South African army R5 assault rifle. A picture of a semi-automatic rifle is tattooed to the side of his shaven head.
Abbott, 35, has changed his name at least twice. As Adam Schamotta he was described by a court in 2002 as having a "passion for expensive firearms". The court convicted and sentenced him to a two-year and nine-month jail term on charges of obtaining money from banks by fraud, and stealing as a servant. He later lost his permission to hold gun licences for 10 years, reduced on appeal to five years.
In 2010, Abbott, online moniker "gingrowler", was described on eBay feedback as a "valued customer" by a US-based manufacturer of gun holsters, including those used to conceal handguns. He was also a "valued customer" of an online hydroponics store, "one of Australia's largest online suppliers of indoor gardening".
Wignall owns guns and collects birds. But in 2006 he was banned by the WA State Administrative Tribunal from holding gun licences because his membership of the Coffin Cheaters, with its history of firearms violence, meant that he was not a "fit and proper person".
He moved to Bali about two years ago, where he has settled, marrying a Balinese woman.
Wignall has a long criminal history in Australia with 55 convictions, including for drug possession and supply. In 1992 he was jailed for 13 months for offering a $15,000 bribe to a police officer to drop an investigation into a drug offence.
During evidence to a tribunal in 2006, Wignall said the Coffin Cheaters were "like my family". Some people in the gang were thugs and sold and supplied drugs, he conceded, but said of them: "There are a hell of a lot of people in my club now that I don't agree with what they do."
In 2009 Wignall was named in the Federal Court by Tim Johnston, disgraced chief of bankrupt business Firepower, as a stand-over man.
Johnston claimed that Wignall and Sydney building industry "identity" Tom Domican (three times acquitted of murder) had intimidated him until he gave $11 million to one particular creditor, property developer Warren Anderson.
The Coffin Cheaters are known to have strong relationships with Perth businessman and industrial "mediator" John Kizon who also has businesses in Indonesia, including with members of some of the the country's politically connected oligarchs.
Wignall's links to Bali's nightlife go beyond the HD Bar. He is often seen at one of the most popular mainstream nightclubs in Kuta Legian, the Sky Garden.
At night this multiple-storey pub and nightclub conglomerate heaves with patrons and the skimpily dressed hostesses ready to entertain them. The club recently held its "2nd Annual VIP Schoolies Party".
Sky Garden's manager, Sean McAloney, denied in an email any link, formal or informal, between the Coffin Cheaters or Rebels and his club. Rumours that Wignall had an ownership interest were untrue, he said - Wignall had simply been "a loyal patron since he arrived in Bali".
Wignall's daughter, Jade, however - who is pictured on her Facebook page aiming a pistol - is employed at the Sky Garden as the "PR host and promotions supervisor".
Around the time Wignall appeared in Bali the Sky Garden changed security contractors - a controversial move in Bali's gang-dominated security sector.
A number of sources have confirmed that the Sky Garden sacked its previous security provider, Laskar Bali - literally Bali Army - a large and sometimes violent local group which dominates the nightclub security business in Bali. They replaced it with a group led by Jakarta gangster (aka preman, literally "free man") Hercules Rozario Marcal.
Around then, in early 2011, a large fight erupted outside the club, with some antagonists carrying weapons. McAloney said the fight involved only about eight people. Asked if linked to the change in security contract, he said: "I am not sure if this had anything to do with our security, as there have been many theories."
Asked about Hercules and Laskar Bali, McAloney did not answer directly: "We hire security based on their CV and skill sets. Our security come from all over Indonesia (Bali, Central Java, Timor, etc) and ALL have been trained/certified by the police."
New security provider Hercules is closely connected to ex-general Prabowo Subianto, favourite to win Indonesia's 2014 presidential election. A Jakarta source said Hercules had become friendly with "Howie" Wignall and WA identity John Kizon through their interest in promoting boxing.
If Australian bikies are coming to Bali to establish a criminal business, they enter a well-established gang scene. Observers believe they will need to either fight or make alliances.
"There are just so many actors involved in Bali," says Dr Jacqueline Baker, a University of Wollongong political anthropologist specialising in police in south-east Asia. "You see the Russian mafia in Bali these days. It's just such a big market. And it's a really difficult market to take on."
The competition for nightclub security contracts is intense and can be a gateway to the lucrative business of dealing drugs. There is no suggestion that the Sky Garden knows of or condones drug dealing inside or outside its premises.
As for law enforcement in Bali, the Indonesian police may view Australian bikie gangs as little more than Harley-Davidson enthusiasts - a passion they have in common.
The country's Deputy Police Chief, Commissioner General Nanan Soekarna, is, controversially, the chairman of the Indonesian Harley-Davidson Club, and Dr Baker says that, because Harleys cost a large multiple of an officer's annual salary, they have become a highly prized symbol of status.
Australian authorities, meanwhile, are worried about what might happen in Bali, where 2500 Australians come to holiday each week.
"Soon enough the Coffin Cheaters and Bandidos will clash on Kuta Legian over access to market and territory," a source said. "The local police are completely unprepared. They have no idea where this could go, and they don't want to admit they have a potential problem."