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Gang members accused of chasing debts with baseball bats

BIKIES are allegedly brandishing baseball bats over debts owed to major finance firms as gang figures expand their presence in the repossession industry.

Prominent outlaw motorcycle gang members have allegedly appeared at two repossession bids in Melbourne in recent weeks, undermining laws that attempt to ban criminals from the industry.

The Herald Sun believes one major bank has alerted a Victoria Police taskforce to its concerns about bikies and repossessions.

The Baillieu Government scrapped licensing requirements for so-called "repo men" in July, a move experienced industry figures fear is enriching outlaw bikies.

In the latest case, a Hells Angels boss allegedly arrived at a property in Mickleham in mid-September carrying a baseball bat.

He was seen wearing plain clothes - no bikie "colours". In progress was an attempt to repossess about $1 million worth of machinery belonging to a Victorian trucking firm that is in receivership.

Representatives from an established Victorian repossession agency were there and police were involved.

The trucking firm allegedly owes tens of millions to reputable financiers including major banks.

A bikie gang member was also allegedly present during the repossession of an Isuzu truck at the Melbourne Fish Market three days earlier. The repossession agency denies any involvement with the man.

Under Victorian laws effective from July, repossession agents no longer need a licence to operate.

The new regime says anyone can do repossessions as long as they are not bankrupt and have no serious criminal convictions.

Previously, they had to clear a criminal history check to get a licence but now, regulators act only on tips.

One veteran collector is baffled as to why the rules have changed and says bikie influence is growing.

"I don't know what they were thinking by changing this because now you have every man and his dog going around doing repo," said one debt collector.

A spokesman for the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Michael O'Brien, said the Government was in the process of examining the industry.

"A project considering harmonisation of debt collection regulation is under way," he said.

The law firm that acts for the man, who received a suspended sentence for intimidating a witness, was unable to respond to the Herald Sun before last night's deadline.

Police did not comment.

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