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Friday, 21 March 2008

Hells Angels have always maintained they are mostly law-abiding

The Hells Angels have always maintained they are mostly law-abiding and should not be punished collectively for the misdeeds of a few bad apples.But any pretense that Hells Angels is a harmless brotherhood is shattered by a "simple check with the court cases across the country," says Michel Auger, the former Le Journal de Montreal crime reporter who survived being shot in the back six times on Sept. 13, 2000, the day after he ran a story on the latest round of murders in Quebec's notorious biker wars between the Hells Angels and rival outfits. Also, biker police in Canada got more determined. They realized the only way to take down outlaw bikers was through infiltration - an expensive, lengthy and dangerous enterprise.
In March 2001, police in Quebec arrested 138 bikers, including the entire Quebec Hells Angels Nomads chapter in Operation Springtime, which involved planting two police agents in the Angels-controlled Rockers gang.In Ontario, Project Tandem resulted in the arrest of 15 Hells Angels on drug, weapon and murder charges in September 2006. And last April, 16 full-patch members were arrested in Project Develop after police rammed through the wall of the Toronto chapter's clubhouse and seized $500,000 in cash, 80 weapons including rifles and shotguns, more than nine kilograms of cocaine, and almost 500 litres of concentrated GHB, the date-rape drug.
In both investigations, police had the help of full-patch members.And the current Hells Angels trial in B.C. is a result of Project E-Pandora in which the RCMP paid a Hells Angels enforcer $1 million to help collect evidence against the East End chapter.Drawing on Bill C-24, which was passed in 2001 and defines a criminal organization as three or more people benefitting from serious offences, prosecutors in that trial aimed to prove the Hells Angels chapter as a whole gained from the alleged offences. A conviction will not permanently blemish the Hells Angels patch in B.C. It has to be proven in court with each new trial.But it would carry stiffer penalties for the accused, would allow police to more easily seize Hells Angels assets or prevent them from operating legitimate businesses, and would give law enforcement more discretion in putting Hells Angels under surveillance.It may also cause tension within Angels' ranks, who are under strict orders not to plead guilty to any "criminal organization" charges, Shinkaruk says. Members who run afoul of the law will more and more have to draw on chapter funds to pay for expensive legal defences.And when you add the psychological blow of having been infiltrated by police, there is the potential for some serious rifts among members, he adds. Angels may be less likely to trust their full-patch brothers automatically, or take on new members. And their partners in criminal circles may be less likely to trust the Hells Angels for fear of dealing with informants.


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