Bikers raise hell from Germany to Australia

By Nicholas Nehamas

Hells Angels are known for their leather jackets, violent history and the ear-splitting din of their hogs. Hunter Thompson called them “the rottenest motorcycle gang in the whole history of Christendom.”

Long considered an organized crime syndicate by the U.S. Department of Justice, the California-based group is believed to have affiliates in twenty-five different countries.

Hells Angels hit the German underworld

One place where the bikers are causing chaos is Germany.

Deutsche Welle claims that there are almost 6,000 motorcycle gang members in Germany, with the Hells Angels being the most popular. Authorities say the biker gangs are a well-armed criminal enterprise and engage in “corruption, violence, drug dealing, human trafficking, arms trading and murder.” They also have ties to Neo-Nazis groups.

Hells Angels has chapters in many German cities. This jacket belongs to the president of the Bonn chapter, who was acquitted on charges of murdering a German police officer in 2010. (Reuters)

Special Forces vs Bikers

Thanks to one high-profile case, German authorities had hoped to break the power of the Angels.

On May 24th in the city of Hanover, Frank Hanebuth, president of the local chapter of the group, was arrested in daring style: Der Spiegel reports that members of an elite German special forces unit roped down from a helicopter into Hanebuth’s “fortress-like” house and shot his Anatolian sheepdog before carting the 47-year old off to jail.

The arrest came after a fellow Angel testified in court that Hanebuth had paid him to murder a rival gang leader.

 Fruitless Raids

The biker’s accusations led 1,200 police officers to raid a series of bars, brothels and apartments across northern Germany. But the authorities came up totally empty-handed. Deutsche Welle notes the police’s surprise when they found Hells Angels members wearing plain white t-shirts instead of their usual emblazoned leather jackets. Many believe the gang had been tipped off, perhaps by a sympathizer in the police force.

The bikers are not just outlaws. The article in Der Spiegel points out that Hells Angels and other biker gangs have made a concerted effort to integrate themselves into respectable society, attending high-profile parties and making public donations to popular charities.

Around the World

Hells Angels wait outside a courthouse in Muenster, Germany in June, 2008 during the trial of two members of the rival Bandidos gang. The accused were convicted of murdering an Angel and sentenced to life in prison. (Reuters)

Germany is not the only country with a biker problem. In Vancouver, Canada a war between the Hells Angels and an Indian-immigrant gang called the Dhrak-Dure has left twelve dead in the past nine months.

In Australia, The Herald Sun reports that Visy Industries, a recycling and packaging company (slogan: “For a Better World”), has been employing Hells Angels as debt collectors. Visy allegedly had been selling boxes to a criminal organization in the fruit and vegetable business that refused to pay its bills. Other mainstream businesses have also sought closer ties with the biker gang.

Remember the Altamont

You’d think business would be wary of getting involved with biker gangs. In 1969, the Rolling Stones hired the Hells Angels to provide security at the Altamont Free Concert in California. The band made the mistake of paying the bikers in beer. The crowd was hopped-up, the Angels were drunk, and three people died in the resulting riot. They later attempted to assassinate Mick Jagger.

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