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LUKE ELIOT and SEAN COWAN, The West Australian January 3, 2012, 5:31 am
Police are concerned bikies are legitimising their activities through the tattoo industry amid revelations that more than one-third of all WA tattoo parlours are linked to gang members.
Links between bikies and tattoo parlours have emerged in recent months after firebombings across Perth, particularly during a feud between the Rebels and Rock Machine gangs.
At the height of the feud in February last year, up to 20 men, many believed to be bikies, ransacked the Lost City Tattoo parlour in Spearwood, which was linked to a Rock Machine member.
The links were also highlighted in the recent sentencing of tattooist Kyle Adam Barry over an extortion involving former Rock Machine bikie Brent Reker.
In sentencing Barry to two years jail, District Court Judge Simon Stone said he was satisfied Barry was associated with the Rock Machine through his job at the Lost City Tattoo parlour.
"There you came into contact with members of that gang who frequented those premises for the purposes of tattoos," Judge Stone said.
Assistant Police Commissioner Nick Anticich said police intelligence suggested bikies were linked to about 30 of WA's 77 tattoo and body piercing parlours.
An investigation by _The West Australian _has revealed known patched members are directors and owners of tattoo businesses, while the bikies' control of others appears to come through third parties.
It is understood some of the more successful parlours can make up to $20,000 a week.
"Certainly our intelligence suggests a very strong link between (outlaw motorcycle groups), their members and associates and that particular type of industry," Mr Anticich said. "What these criminals bring with them are the traditional tools of organised crime activity.
"They don't negotiate business deals through lawyers and accountants; they engage in extortion, arson, firebombing, shots fired through windows.
"For the public to perceive that somehow them engaging in legitimate business somehow makes them any different or that they operate as normal businessmen is a fallacy."
But the group representing bikies in WA hit back at the claims. Veteran Coffin Cheater and United Motorcycle Council of WA spokesman Peter "Fuzzy" Godfree said bikers had a right to earn a legitimate income.
Mr Godfree said bikers were simply a "bunch of blokes trying to make a living" in the tattoo industry.
"It sounds to me like they don't want us to make a dollar legally or illegally," Mr Godfree said.
"I think tattoos go hand in glove with being bikers . . . I would think it's more a cultural thing."
Mr Anticich said bikies gravitated to the tattoo industry because it was synonymous with their culture.
He said the industry appeared to have grown in recent years as tattooing and body piercing became more fashionable.
"One of the problems we have with legitimisation is once you intermingle legitimate enterprise with illegitimate enterprise it's very hard to disentangle and understand the source of income," he said.
Mr Anticich said police relied heavily on other law enforcement agencies.
He said police spoke to the Australian Taxation Office when they identified areas of concern, and the tattoo industry was regulated by local government.