Sunday, June 19, 2016

German police increase pressure on Hells Angels

Corruption, violence, drug dealing, human trafficking, arms trading and murder have all been committed by violent outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMG) in Germany.

In Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, about a dozen criminal cases are currently being prosecuted. Motorcycle gangs have around 6,000 members across the country, the most prominent being the Hells Angels. In a recent stand-off between Hells Angels and the Bandidos in Cologne, hundreds of police officers were called into the city center to prevent the worst. Both gangs originated in the US, but have built up a powerful presence in Germany over the years.
In the Ruhr region, a 49-year-old member of the Bandidos was found shot dead near his motorcycle. Murders committed against motorcycle gang members have also occurred in Münster in 2007, and in Duisberg, in 2009.

The Bandidos are the ruling gang in the Ruhr region – something the Hells Angels want to contest. The struggle concerns the drug trade and the operation of brothels.

Motorcycle gangs are in conflict in northern Germany, where the Hells Angels have a strong advantage.

A police raid on the "Hells Angels Schleswig-Holstein" clubhouse
German authorities have tried to stop OMGs with organized raids. The fear is that innocent civilians will become victims of clashes between the groups. Some 1,200 officers carried out raids in brothels, pubs and apartments across Kiel, Hannover and Hamburg. Police were searching for evidence of criminal activity.

Authorities in Berlin were stunned to discover that all of the evidence they expected to find had been removed. Suspected Hells Angels wore white t-shirts as opposed to their usual jackets. Someone had given them a timely tip-off.

Police rarely receive complaints from those willing to testify. Aggrieved gang members never betray their perpetrators. The gangs sort things out between themselves.
Another difficulty in persecuting motorcycle gang members is inherent to German law, which says it is not enough for individual members to be found guilty of a crime. The crimes need to proven as typical for the entire gang. In North Rhine-Westphalia, there was enough evidence to introduce a ban at the beginning of April. Two branches of the Hell Angels - "'Hell Angels MC Cologne" and "Red Devils MC Cologne" - were disbanded. Authorities also confiscated their assets.

This followed a similar ban on the gang in Kiel and Neumünster. Officials say that when symbols of power, such as the jackets, can no longer be worn openly, the power of the gang appears to be weakened and broken. Berlin's Senator of the Interior, Frank Henkel, wants to introduce a complete ban on OMGs.