syndicates are evolving to reap the
riches of a new wave of drugs
hitting the streets. Aja Styles and
Chalpat Sonti report
crime networks are growing at a
rapid rate as a new wave of designer
drugs floods the streets, but police
fear a volatile situation may
explode as rival gangs seek to
wrestle control of lucrative drug
Assistant Commissioner Nick Anticich
said the situation was far more
complex than in the 1980s, when four
established outlaw bikie gangs and
some well-known ethnic groups
controlled the city's drug trade.
Perth has grown that has attracted
new players wanting a slice of the
pie," he said.
which makes up 90 per cent of drugs
seized in the state and has become
the main ingredient in ecstasy, is
worth three times more in WA than in
the Eastern States - $50 a pill
compared with $18, and $15,000 an
ounce compared with $5000.
price difference has led to a surge
in fly-in, fly-out dealers who catch
a plane to Perth for a day to
offload their wares, before
returning to the eastern seaboard
with a fat profit.
would you want to go and work on a
mine-site and earn $150,000 a year
when you can (earn) it in two weeks?
That's the sort of mentality we are
dealing with," Organised crime
Detective Superintendent Charlie
from being flown in, drugs are
permeating the state through ports,
rail, road and post.
a big country, it's a big state,
it's very, very difficult to
police," Superintendent Carver said.
international level, while the
manufacturers make a small profit,
importers take the largest share at
60-70 per cent because they pay
wholesale prices and are able to
control distribution, adding cutting
agents to increase volume.
drugs then filter down through the
dealers to the street level, with
dealers adding their own mark-up and
Anticich said motorcycle gangs acted
as attractive distribution branches
for organised crime syndicates
because they could easily recruit
members and maintain a structured
hierarchy, with a president and
sergeant-in-arms at the helm.
few high-end organised criminal
identities, scattered throughout WA,
operated as legitimate businessmen.
They were seen as nothing more than
as entrepreneurs by their
neighbours, friends and associates,
Mr Anticich said.
of these people have never been
convicted of an offence, never seen
the inside of a court of law and in
some cases have never been charged,"
one of the people at the top end of
the illicit crime and organised
crime scene have legitimate
lifestyles or businesses."
was unlike fully-patched members of
motorcycle gangs, who faced a
catch-22 if they later tried to
reform their image.
"Outlaw motorcycle gang members,
interestingly, when they start off
to get to the top levels they want
to prove they're hard men but once
they accumulate wealth and power
they try to undergo a metamorphosis
to become legitimate businessmen.
But they are caught between two
worlds - they want two entirely
different identities," Mr Anticich
Although rivalry still simmers
between the gangs, the days of
strict divides between the bikies
are long over. Traditionally
Caucasian motorcycle gangs are now
teaming up with WA-based ethnic
gangs from Asia, the Middle East,
Africa, the Pacific Islands and New
my experience of bikies, they're
hierarchical conglomerates that get
together when they feel like it to
deal drugs and also deal in other
things such as standovers,
extortions, kidnappings and even in
some cases murders," Superintendent
"Obviously cultures change and
people coming into a group change.
We've got motorcycle gangs now that
don't even ride motorbikes in this
country. It's just the whole persona
of being a bikie, tough looking in
leather and they don't ride bikes."
the tension is still there. The most
recent public outbreaks of violence
have been between the Rebels and the
Rock Machine, after a Rebels member
had his tattoo shop firebombed last
August, the Coffin Cheaters and
Finks made headlines after clashing
in a brawl at the Perth Motorplex in
Kwinana, which saw one Fink shot and
three fingers severed from another
senior member. Tensions between the
gangs centre on high-profile Fink
Troy Mercanti, who defected to the
gang after being kicked out of the
Coffin Cheaters for dealing behind
the club's back.
Finks and Rock Machine are still
considered the minnows of the WA
bikie scene. Bigger players are the
Comancheros and Outlaws, all of
which have recently established a
recent presence in the state.
it's the traditional big four clubs
- the Coffin Cheaters, Gypsy Jokers,
God's Garbage and Club Deroes -
which still dominate the WA drug
market, according to police.
are currently maintaining a close
watch of all the clubs and their
Eastern States counterparts in a bid
to avoid any further bloodshed on
gangs have little to fear from the
expansion of backyard drug
manufacturers, with underworld
sources confirming any perceived
threats could be quickly
neutralised. Often "torching" of
rogue dealers or baseball-bat
bashings were used to send a
message, and these kinds of crimes
were rarely reported.
"Extortion, kidnapping and torture
are alive and well and have been
used in the past and will probably
used in the future. It's basically
intimidation fear and murder,"
Superintendent Carver said.
Although cannabis is still said to
be the backbone of the bikies' drugs
trade, methylamphetamines have
rapidly taken over as the most
common drugs seized.
Methylamphetamine use has exploded
on Perth streets since the war in
Afghanistan, when heroin supplies
dried up after the Taliban gave up
control of the country's poppy
fields, according to Chemcentre
forensic analyst Dominic Reynolds.
Heroin addicts responded by
switching to methylamphetamines,
cooked up in dangerous home-made
Methylamphetamine use is also rife
among gang members and police claim
45 per cent of those dealing in
drugs consume them as well.
believe the amount of seizures and
number of bikies being arrested has
forced up the price of
methylamphetamines, but this success
has also meant more Eastern States
clubs were looking to establish
chapters in Perth.
Anticich said they were lured here
by WA users, cashed up with wealth
from the mining boom, who were
prepared to pay significantly more
"Organised crime goes where there's
lots of money and lots of wealth. By
reducing the supply, commodities go
up even before they get it into the
community," he said.
Superintendent Carver said that as
long as there was demand for the
drug, it would continue to fuel the
talking 25- to 30/35-year-old people
who just live for the moment and
they're not putting anything aside
for later on down the track. And
those are the type of people getting
into the marketplace... not only
using them but also getting involved
in the selling and moving on because
they can see the dollars in front of
them," Superintendent Carver said.
the cost of amphetamines in this
state, it's exorbitant for the
average user. Unless you've got a
lot of disposable income you can't
we've had a 511 per cent increase in
clan labs detected last year. That
rose from 24 to 125 last year. We're
on track now, we've had 115 this
year, we've still got six weeks to
go - we'll probably hit 130, 135
labs this year."
A history of addiction
the popularity of methylamphetamine
might be a relatively new phenomenon
on Perth's streets, the drug itself
has been around a long time, with
some legitimate uses.
developed in Japan about 100 years
ago, it came into its own in World
War II as a way to help soldiers
stay alert. Principally used by the
Japanese, it was also taken by the
German and British forces, as well
as US Air Force personnel stationed
in the UK during the war. It was to
be the start of sustained use of
amphetamines by the US armed forces.
report into drug use during the
Vietnam War found more amphetamines
- which differ slightly from
methylamphetamines - were consumed
than by the combined UK and US
forces for the duration of World War
also prescribed widely in many
countries during the 1950s, and is
an ingredient in drugs to treat
attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder in children.
was in Japan that crime figures
first became involved, thanks to an
addiction evolving out of the
stockpile built up by the country's
armed forces in World War II.
Authorities sold the drug before
banning it a few years later.
the Yakuza criminal organisation
stepped in to meet the demand. That
spread to other countries, with US
gangs getting involved in the 1960s,
as the variant known as "speed" grew
Australia, the drug became a
favourite among long-haul truck
drivers seeking to keep awake and
students staying up all night to
study for exams. Victoria became the
first state to test drivers for
methylamphetamines in 2004.
its popularity has exploded
worldwide in the past decade or so,
as purer and purer forms of
methylamphetamine have been
while it was originally nicknamed
the "poor man's cocaine" in the US,
methylamphetamines have been
embraced by users across the social
strata, with plenty of stories
around the world of fortunes lost
chasing the highs from the drug. As
users become addicted to the drug,
they need to use more and more to
get the same high.
drug goes by many names worldwide,
including "ice", "crystal meth",
"speed", "base", and "P", with the
names also giving a clue as to the
purity of the drug. However, one
thing has stayed constant: the
drug's lure for those around the
world seeking easy and huge profits.
group from the Hell's Angels bikie
gang to the Russian Mafia to the Sri
Lankan Tamil Tigers has been
implicated in manufacturing or
in Australia, many gangs worldwide
have realised the need to protect
their profits by moving from the
image of the "bikie" fighting on the
street to low-profile businessmen in
expensive suits to try to stay out
of the public eye.