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Queensland bikie gangs fight for survival in face of landmark case

BY: Matt Wordsworth

Australia - Bikie gang bosses on Queensland's Gold Coast are warning their members to take their violence off the streets in the lead-up to a landmark court action that threatens the clubs' survival.

In a case being watched by law enforcement agencies around the country, Queensland Police are asking the Supreme Court to declare the Gold Coast chapter of the Finks a criminal organisation.

If successful it would place extraordinary restrictions on gang members, banning them from even talking to each other.

But even with the case a matter of weeks away, bikies are proving their own worst enemies with a spate of violent rampages on the Glitter Strip.

The Gold Coast has become a centre of drug production and distribution. Police believe outlaw motorcycle gangs are at its core, with eight set up.

While they deny there is a turf war, tensions boil over. There are personal disputes, and very public ones.

The newcomers are the Hell's Angels, recently setting up in Burleigh and linked to a tattoo parlour 500 metres away.

It is the job of Detective Inspector Garry Watts to monitor the gangs. He is the head of the anti-bikie taskforce Hydra.

There's a major image problem, there's a major safety problem, it's frightening my locals, it's frightening the business people.... It's just unacceptable that we've got this bikie presence. Gold Coast politician Ray Stevens

"The establishment of an outlaw motorcycle gang in an area already occupied by another motorcycle gang can increase tensions, which is certainly something we monitor.

"All the time in relation to outlaw motorcycle gangs there's tension between the gangs."

On May 7, four days before the tattoo parlour was to hold its official opening, it was firebombed.

A fortnight later a competing business in nearby Palm Beach was torched.

Local politicians like Ray Stevens say they are fed up.

"There's a major image problem, there's a major safety problem, it's frightening my locals, it's frightening the business people in the Broadbeach, Mermaid Beach area," he said.

"It's just unacceptable that we've got this bikie presence."

Mr Walker cites a rampage and bashings by Finks members in the Broadbeach mall as an example of the violence, as well as the stabbing murder last month of a bikie associate a few hundred metres away.

"It's incredibly frustrating and it's hard to understand how these brazen groups are allowed to operate." Crime capital of Australia

Ian Leavers, president of the Queensland Police Union, says per capita, the Gold Coast is the crime capital of Australia.

"They're all bikie-related crimes, we see vicious beltings, we saw a murder on the weekend, armed robberies as well as other robberies, theft of motor vehicles and drug trafficking," he said.

"They are all directly related to the trade of what bikies do."

Mr Leavers says he wants authorities to hold a summit on bikie violence.

"A summit would make sense. You get all the people, the interested parties together to be able to go through and digest it on possible solutions on how we can tackle this together," he said.

But police and the State Government are focusing on new laws that can declare entire groups as criminal organisations.

The Gold Coast chapter of the Finks is the first target, with the Supreme Court case beginning in October.

South Australia and New South Wales have already tried similar laws only to see them struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court.

"It's the first in Australia to get as far as we have," Det Insp Watts said.

"It's unique legislation in Queensland, so we've had to adapt our process for that. It's a learning curve for the service and we're confident that any future applications will be done a lot quicker than this first one." The changing Gold Coast scene

Police believe the Finks changed dramatically in 1996 - a brutal bashing murder put senior members behind bars and ushered in a new breed who were more enterprising and more ruthless.

In 2006, the defection of one member to the Hell's Angels sparked bloody retribution at a kickboxing tournament.

The ringside brawl became known as the ballroom blitz; the defector, Christopher Hudson, was beaten, stabbed and shot in the face.

In 2012, there was another shooting, this time in a crowded Gold Coast shopping centre, where a Finks member allegedly opened fire on a rival Bandido.

An innocent bystander was hit in the arm.

The police submission also includes recordings of phone calls they say are between Finks members such as Nick "The Knife" Forbes, a lead player in the ballroom blitz, who boasts of recruiting new nominee members, or noms.

"Within the next two weeks our last seven noms have come from the street crew. How good's that? That's f****** awesome.

"Yeah we're strong as at the moment, we're going great guns.

"They're bringing all these laws in all around Australia. Might as well just call them anti-Fink laws. They're not f****** anti-bikie laws, they're anti-Fink."

The recruitment drive is even on within Queensland jails, with Forbes recorded discussing membership with double murderer Jason Nixon, also known for his prison escape with postcard bandit Brendan Abbott.

Forbes: So you're happy to come aboard mate?

Nixon: I am there Nick, I am there.

Nixon: So how does it go Nick? I've got to be a nom for a while?

Forbes: Just a little while bro. You'll get 'em quick.

Proposed restrictions on bikie gang members

The laws allow control orders to be placed on organisation members. They would ban them from associating with each other, restrict them from holding certain jobs, even visiting certain areas.

Bill Potts, the solicitor representing the Finks, says the laws are draconian.

"What we are going to see is that states around Australia effectively following this case will move to introduce similar legislation and follow the course which is followed here," Mr Potts said.

"So if the Finks' case fails, then we will expect bike groups around Australia effectively banned."

It is understood that with the case so close, bikie bosses have ordered calm but violence has flared up.

Last month Bandido Leonard David Toalei had to be tasered and batoned into submission after allegedly firing a shotgun round in a taxi and attempting to hijack a milk truck.

In May, a bikie allegedly bashed a lifeguard at Burleigh after his wife was asked not to walk her dog through a flagged area.

And Finks and Nomads also brawled at the Cooly Rocks On festival in Coolangatta. Eight were charged with affray, including former NRL player Antony Watts.

Mr Potts says he does not see a day when there will be a Gold Coast without bikies.

"I think what happens is we've all driven ourselves into a lather of concern and we now have to question whether we should ban all bike groups," he said.

"I think the answer to that clearly is no, and in any case the banning of one is a step too far." n face of landmark court case



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