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Golden Mile gang busters

EXCLUSIVE Les Kennedy, Vanda Carson and Eamonn Duff

December 5, 2010

Caught in the crossfire ... Kings Cross's licensed premises.

Caught in the crossfire ... Kings Cross's licensed premises.

POLICE are trying to lock bikie gangs out of Kings Cross amid fears of an intensified turf war between gangs and a danger that innocent partygoers could be hurt in the crossfire.

NSW police are using the threat of breaches of the clubs' lucrative liquor licences to force them to refuse entry to gang members in club jackets, other clothing and distinctive gang tattoos.

The Sun-Herald has learnt 29 clubs in the Kings Cross strip, also known as the Golden Mile, have received letters saying police have applied to forcibly ''impose'' conditions on their liquor licences, a move that can be done without the licensees' consent.

The new conditions would mean licensees allowing in gang members could be slapped with an $11,000 fine and a one-year prison term - measures some clubs say are too tough. The Sun-Herald learnt of the plan when police intelligence documents supporting the plan to bar bikies from Kings Cross clubs were mailed to the wrong address.

The documents were part of a hefty submission by the Kings Cross police local area command crime intelligence unit, prepared for the state government department overseeing liquor licensing.

The dossier includes details of ongoing violent disputes between members of at least six bikie gangs dating back to 2006, as well as two CDs containing police intelligence on the gangs and their hangouts.

The push to ban gangs from Cross venues comes as lawyers representing bikies mount a High Court challenge against anti-association legislation that would outlaw them altogether.

An initial group of Cross clubs considered at risk of becoming haunts for bikie gangs was targeted by police last year: Dreamgirls, The Tunnel, Trademark, The Lincoln, Lady Lux and Candy's Apartment. They were asked to voluntarily refuse admission to bikies. But the hit-list has spread to almost every club on the Kings Cross strip open past midnight.

Communities NSW, the government department in charge of liquor licences, has confirmed the police force had ''applied to the director-general of Communities NSW to impose the 'no bikie colours' condition on 29 venues in Kings Cross''.

Letters have been sent to the clubs in recent weeks and the department had yet to assess their responses, a spokesman for the department said.

The Lincoln is the only club to have succeeded in overturning the licence condition placed on it by the director-general of Communities NSW after it appealed to the Casino, Liquor and Gaming Control Authority.

The Lincoln ''categorically'' denied ''that it is or has been a haunt for gang members'', despite police saying they had intelligence reports of ''alleged overtures made by a [bikie gang] to secure an interest in the security services and the business of the premises'', the authority's decision states.

Kings Cross local area commander Anthony Crandell said a number of applications had been made to restrict patrons of licensed premises that were overtly displaying affiliations with outlaw motorcycle gangs or outlaw criminal gangs. ''The reason for this application is in response to a history of violent assaults involving outlaw motorcycle gang members and outlaw criminal gang members. The intention is also to prevent future violent assaults.''

Police have cited dozens of violent assaults to back their claims. A nightclub owner, who asked not to be named, said his club would voluntarily agree to the conditions.

''We don't want gangs in the Cross, we want young people coming for a night out, and patron safety is the most important thing. If the police think that there are gangs in the Cross, they should arrest them. If we know a person is associated with a gang we will refuse them entry.''

The licence conditions are the latest in a string of measures making it tougher for nightclub owners in the Cross because police, the council, hospital emergency staff and the NSW government consider it a trouble spot for alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and violence.

Trading hours and patron capacity at all Kings Cross venues are frozen and some are fighting attempts to cut their hours.

Elsewhere in NSW, at least 53 hotels already have a ''no bikie colours'' condition imposed on the licence.


John Ibrahim's motley mates

Dylan Welch

December 5, 2010

FROM the club owners and licensees to the most dangerous of the dozens of outlaw motorcycle clubs that roam the 500 metres of Darlinghurst Road at the weekend - John Ibrahim knows them all.

The Tunnel (until recently called Dragonfly) is where Mr Ibrahim's long and mysterious nightclub career began, back in 1990 when he bought into the 12-month-old bar.

Its owner and licensee, David Robert Auld, is one of Mr Ibrahim's good friends and the club is a hangout for Mr Ibrahim's less salubrious friends. Mr Auld also has a stake in the newish strip joint The Bank. His more well-to-do mates will be found at the Piano Room and The Club, near the southern end of the Darlo strip.

They are also owned by figures with close connections to Mr Ibrahim: at Piano, they are Poata Okeroa, Mimmo Salvato and radio jock and wannabe nightclub mogul Kyle Dalton Sandilands; Erik Jury, the Hardin family and two other business partners are at The Club.

The real estate agent and former publican who owns the freehold for the Piano Room, Greg Magree, is a good friend.

There is Lady Lux - owned by Mr Ibrahim's close friends and one-time business partners, the sons of Sydney criminal identity George Freeman, David George and Adam Sonny.

Even Porky's is managed by ''Ashtray Frank'' Amante, one of Mr Ibrahim's most enduring associates. And it is not only the business that Mr Ibrahim has inextricable ties to. Notorious, the outlaw bikie club whose members don't actually ride bikes, was created by Mr Ibrahim's youngest brother, Michael, and still has close associations with the Ibrahim family.

The Nomads Motorcycle Club also has a history with the Ibrahim clan. John's older brother, Hassan ''Sam'' Ibrahim, was one of the first Lebanese-Australian men to be allowed to join a local outlaw club, and he rose through the ranks to become president of the Nomads' powerful Granville chapter.

Any police officer who knows the area will confirm that John Houssam Ibrahim is an essential element of Kings Cross. Yet his name appears nowhere in the documents obtained by The Sun-Herald detailing bikie-related violence in Kings Cross nightclubs. Unless, of course, he is one of the identities named in the police intelligence reports that remain hidden, courtesy of a police black marker.

Dylan Welch has written a book about the Ibrahim family, The House of Ibrahim, to be published by Allen & Unwin early next year.



Exposed: the gruesome underbelly of a turf war

Les Kennedy, Vanda Carson and Eamonn Duff

December 5, 2010

EVERY weekend, young revellers looking for a good time spill out of clubs and fill the streets of Kings Cross into the early hours.

Lured by the neon lights and pumping music, the crowds are as large as the morning peak of city office workers in Martin Place.

While the seediness of the Cross is part of its appeal, many revellers are oblivious to the violent turf war raging beneath the gloss and glamour of its fashionable drinking holes.

The Sun-Herald learnt of the extent of bikie-related violence in the Cross when a pile of documents was mailed to the wrong address in October.

The documents, contained on paper and compact disc, form a road map of police intelligence, some extremely sensitive, of the battle to regain control of the streets of the Cross from rival organised crime gangs and outlaw bikie groups

A risk report from Kings Cross Police Local Area Command crime intelligence unit to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing details 41 alleged violent bikie-related incidents at 16 hotels, nightclubs and bars between November 2006 and August last year, said to have been committed by the Hells Angels, Comanchero, Nomads, Rebels, Bandidos, Gypsy Jokers and Notorious gangs.

They range from assaults and the shooting of doormen, kidnapping and holding to ransom rival gang members, street fights between gangs involving up to 30 men, standing over clubs for protection money and the alleged sexual assault of a group of women in a club. One police intelligence report says ''members of … Notorious have begun frequenting [a Kings Cross nightclub] and demanding payments of $5000 per week for protection''.

It says members of Notorious had been instructed to ''stand over and extort monies'' from a pair of business owners, one of whose car was ''blown up during the course of these negotiations''.

Until now, most clubs have voluntarily agreed to refuse entry to gang members but in recent weeks police have upped the ante by asking the NSW government department in charge of licences to forcibly ''impose'' conditions on their liquor licences, a move that can be done without the licensees' consent. Doug Grand, president of the Kings Cross Licensing Accord and boss of Club Swans on busy Darlinghurst Road, said he believed all clubs open beyond midnight were willing to consent to the new licence conditions banning gang members which are under consideration by the government department in charge of liquor licences.

''If you look at the most violent incidents that have occurred in the area over the past three years, the vast majority have been gang-related. From a premise holder's point of view, it's not good to have them in,'' Mr Grand said.

Several licensees expressed fear of speaking publicly about the issue, out of concern of potential reprisals by both bikie gangs and police. Others felt the conditions imposed on their trading were better dealt with openly.

But one nightclub identity, whose venue has already suffered problems after denying bikies entry, described the licence amendments as ''flawed''.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, he said: ''We got the notification and, in my mind, it leaves us exposed to a licence breach, even if we've done everything by the book.''

He added: ''Next Saturday we might let someone in who, on the surface, looks like your average customer. Once inside, he removes his jacket and he's wearing club colours. All of a sudden, the police pop by and we've broken the law.''

The club owner said: ''Our management strategy has always been to deny these people entry and it always will be - the police already know that - but additionally, sometimes, it's not as clear cut as simply telling someone to go away.

''[Sometimes] it's safer for everyone to simply let them in and call the police afterwards. Is that another breach of licence?''

David Auld, licensee of The Tunnel, said if it was controlled fairly, it had the potential to be a positive move. ''But if police are going to use these new rules to continuously breach premises and have them moved into different [licensing] categories, then I'd be extremely disappointed.''

Mr Auld said tattoos remained a grey area. ''Some clearly state the gang name but others don't. I personally would have no idea if a particular symbol belonged to a particular group. It's not straightforward and I'll be very interested to see what transpires over the coming months and what action venues take if they feel they have been unfairly treated.''

United Motorcycle Council of NSW barrister Wayne Baffsky, who is representing the Bandidos and Hells Angels in a High Court challenge against anti-association laws, described the licence conditions as ''impossible to enforce''.

''Do police honestly believe this ridiculous plan is going to lock those people out of the area? They'll simply dress differently and waltz straight through. As for the majority [of bikies] not involved in organised crime - it signals the start of further harassment and discrimination.''



Bikies fight for lucrative drug trade

Les Kennedy

December 5, 2010

WHOEVER controls Kings Cross controls Sydney's drug trade - and the lucre that flows from it. The Golden Mile has long been the setting for turf wars by gangs trying to dominate points of distribution for the drug market.

Nightclubs and bars in the Cross are the prime place to sell, mostly amphetamines, to cashed-up partygoers. So it's no wonder that bikie gangs are jostling for a piece of the action.

For gangs such as the Comanchero, Hells Angels and Notorious (the new boys on the block) it has been ''game on'', with no let-up in the violent struggle for supremacy, despite intense police scrutiny and legislative attempts to stop them associating.

Kings Cross police received information in January last year that the Comanchero were trying to usurp the moves to ban bikies from clubs by attempting to covertly purchase the Lincoln nightclub right in middle of rival Notorious and Hells Angels turf, a bid that was unsuccessful. The next month, a riot squad was sent to the area of the Cross known as ''the strip'' to boost the number of officers on the street.

In early October this year Gang Squad police were bracing for a flare-up in bikie violence after receiving fresh information of a recruitment drive. At that time, 30 Comanchero and Notorious members clashed in the Cross, an incident that went unreported.Later that month, just kilometres from the Cross, the gangs clashed again outside a Bondi tattoo parlour.

Comanchero are suspected of being behind last Sunday's drive-by shooting at the Ryde home of Armani Stelio, the sister of former Nomads member Sam Ibrahim and Kings Cross organised crime figure John Ibrahim. The next day, Notorious sergeant-at-arms Saber Murad, 24, was shot at his Doonside home by a gunman believed to be a Comanchero.

When police arrested 10 senior Comancheros and three members of the Hells Angels over the fatal brawl at Sydney Airport on March 22 last year they thought it would break the back of the ''Comos''' command structure. They were wrong.

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