Police swarmed the Head Hunters Motorcycle Club clubrooms in Ellerslie this morning after restraining a senior gang member's property worth $6 million.
Police said they had executed search warrants at various locations in Auckland with the support of other government agencies, including the Serious Fraud Office, Customs, the Ministry of Social Development and Inland Revenue.
The execution of the warrants followed an investigation into alleged accumulation of criminally derived wealth by a senior member of the Head Hunters gang, police said.
This investigation is known as Operation Coin, and has used the powers under the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act to target those deriving income from criminal activity.
Police were last week granted restraining orders from the High Court in relation to various properties worth $6 million controlled by the senior Head Hunters member, a 62-year-old beneficiary.
Detective Superintendent Iain Chapman, head of the Police Financial Crime Group, said a "significant amount of work" had gone into the operation.
"Police are committed to ensuring that people cannot accrue wealth and assets as a result of criminal behaviour, at the expense of the safety of our community," he said.
Assistant commissioner of investigations Richard Chambers had come from Wellington for the raid. He said it was a "big deal".
Detective Superintendent Iain Chapman was also at the scene and said the matter was a civil investigation and at this stage no charges or arrests have been made.
"Today is the combination of a very long investigation involving the asset recovery units of NZ Police. We have been looking at the Head Hunters gang and in particular on a member of the gang and as of this morning we have taken action under the civil recovery act to be able to look at restraining assets belonging to that individual," Chapman said.
"This is a restraint process and there is no criminal process attached to this. This is entirely in the civil jurisdiction and we will now go through a proceeding where we aim to forfeit these assets."
He said members of the Head Hunters had been co-operative.
"The actions we have taken today are a significant step in showing NZ and the community around here that we are not prepared to accept people profiting [from criminal activities]. There is significant profits from criminal activities so the actions we have taken today are a big step towards showing NZ we are doing our best," he said.
"The Civil Recovery Act has been around since 2009 and we have had some very successful occasions of using the act. It relies entirely on civil powers so it gives us the ability to go after the asset and profit base, rather than the person," he said.
"There has been a range of offending; money laundering, and drugs are a big contributor to this sort of thing."
There are five properties in total, including the Marua Rd property, that are now in the hands of an official assignee while police go through a court process.
The five properties are all linked to one senior member of the Head Hunters and are all located in Auckland.
Police are dealing with
property and assets only today, the Head Hunters in
question will remain free and uncharged.
This investigation is in conjunction with Police, Inland Revenue, the Serious Fraud Office, NZ Customs and the Official Assignee.
Chapman was not prepared to comment on why armed police were stationed at the property.
"Today is only a step in a very long and ongoing investigation," he said.
The entire Fight Club premises has been seized by police.
The investigation into the Head Hunters gang has been going for two years.
The staff committed to the investigation has varied over time, with approximately five staff at a time. Around 15 staff were present at the Fight Club address today.
Chapman would not confirm the name of the senior Head Hunters member involved in investigations.
"We will continue a search today and we are also searching a number of other properties. The search will go through until we are satisfied that we have covered everything we are looking for at the address, so a number of key staff will stay here throughout the day," Chapman said.
Club members will be allowed to use the premises throughout the duration.
"Assistant Commissioner Chambers is in charge of investigations so he had come up to see what is going on and be part of this phase of the investigation," Chapman said.
"The NZ Police are very keen to reassure the public that we take any action that we can against what we deem as organised criminal groups. The assets base that has been attributed to this particular group and this particular member is significant. We have taken this positive action today to make sure New Zealanders are ensured people will not benefit from criminal activities."
About 15 police officers and seven police cars were this morning stationed outside Fight Club at 232 Marua Rd.
A Herald photographer at the scene said both ends of Marua Rd were cordoned off while uniformed police searched the gang's premises.
Gang members appeared to be co-operating and no one had been arrested, the photographer said.
At least one armed officer was stationed in front of the doors to the gym.
Members of the gang could be seen standing to the left of the building, while others were walking around the back of the building.
There was also a Customs officer present.
Around six officers were later seen leaving the scene, while others remained inside and outside the building.
Police dogs were brought out of cars, while the doors to the gym were pulled closed as officers searched the property.
Traffic is flowing freely along Marua Rd.
A worker from a neighbouring business said police arrived this morning and blocked off the road.
He said police officers hid beside the trade factory before they descended upon the Fight Club.
Police then began searching cars and talking to occupants of the club.
The man said he has worked at the neighbouring business for one-and-a-half years and never had any trouble from anyone at the property.
Other neighbouring businesses said they were only made aware of the raid when police arrived at the property. They were not aware what it was for and had no complaints about the Fight Club.
A resident nearby on Marua Rd said she felt safe living in the area and had never had any trouble with the club, apart from the odd loud motorbike.
Police are seeking any information from the public or professional bodies who are engaged in the financial affairs of the Head Hunters gang.