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April 3, 2011
Branch stack ... the gang is preparing for a legal battle. Photo: Kate Geraghty
A MASS defection of Bandidos bikie members to the Hells Angels in Sydney came with a price tag of $6 million in an extraordinary peacekeeping deal struck between the two former rival gangs.
The payout to secure the defections, aimed at bolstering Hells Angels ranks in NSW, included the formal signing of a contract, The Sun-Herald can reveal.
NSW Gang Squad police have learned that the recruitment of 60 Bandidos members from three of its Sydney chapters in February, including the entire Bandidos Parramatta branch, cost the Hells Angels $6 million. That would translate to $100,000 for every Bandido adopting the flying skull logo of the Hells Angels.
It is unclear if the money went into the coffers of the remaining Bandidos branches or has been paid to each defector.
The recruitment drive is aimed at boosting the Hells Angels' ranks before the High Court decides if NSW Police moves to outlaw the club under anti-gang legislation are lawful.
Bolstering Hells Angels numbers to form new chapters in Kings Cross, Haymarket and Parramatta is also believed to counter the Comanchero and Nomad gangs, who have taken in members of the now defunct Kings Cross gang Notorious.
It is understood the recruitment deal was organised by Felix Lyle, a former Bandido who is a rising force in the Hells Angels. Offers were also made to members of other clubs.
Switching clubs is considered a serious transgression and often leads to violence; hence the payout.
The Hells Angels and Comancheros have been feuding since the Comancheros firebombed a Hells Angels tattoo parlour in 2008.
The fatal airport brawl of March 2009 and subsequent revenge shooting of Hells Angels member Peter Zervas were allegedly results of the firebombing.
But with the increase in Hells Angels ranks to more than 100 members in NSW has come the retirement of at least six long-serving members last week, including Peter Zervas, whose brother Anthony was allegedly bashed to death in the airport brawl.
Another retiree was Anthony Wainohu, an original member of the Hells Angels' first Sydney chapter, formed in Guildford in 1975.
Since its inception in the United States in 1940, the Hells Angels - which now boasts 230 chapters in 27 countries - has adopted a corporate approach to its business dealings despite a ruthless reputation.
The gang carefully guards its name and skull logo, which are trademarked.
In 2006 the Californian chapter of the gang sued Walt Disney for trademark infringement, complaining its logo was used in the film Wild Hogs.
In 2009 the former owner of clothing maker Mambo was forced to apologise to the Hells Angels in Australia for two trademark breaches involving children's clothing emblazoned with ''Heavens Angels'' and a skull with wings.