The blood and the bullet holes need no explanation.
When bikie gangs go into battle over disputed territory like Canberra then anyone in the immediate vicinity, whether sharing the same restaurant or mowing the lawn next door, faces the very real risk of becoming collateral damage.
The ACT has seen the outcome of this time and again over the past 18 months, from the nightmarish street gunfire and car torchings in suburban Kambah to chair-throwing and vicious punch-ons in a quiet Southern Cross Club restaurant.
ACT police acknowledge that four bikie gangs are set up in Canberra – the Comancheros, Rebels, Nomads and the Satudarah. A fifth gang, the Finks, now have reportedly left town but for how long is anyone’s guess; in this high-stakes game, territory is never easily surrendered.
Police, through their gang-targeting team Taskforce Nemesis, together with ACT Attorney General Gordon Ramsay, advise that there are about 60 fully patched bikies in the territory. They offer up this information as if to assuage community concerns.
What they won’t say however, is that gangs such these have an iceberg-like composition; what’s readily visible isn’t the full picture.
When the head of ACT’s crime investigations, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller, is asked how many part-patched, hangers-on and “associate” members orbit around those same 60 patched members, he clearly knows the number but with a grim smile, won’t disclose it.
That’s because it’s a lot. Those who know the scene estimate that around the fully patched members circulate as many as two or three times that number in “associates”.
Canberra gained its newest gang just months ago in the form of the Satudarah, the first of the European outlaw motorcycle gangs here and carries such a violent reputation that it has been banned in Germany. Another ban within its native Holland is currently being appealed.
These gangs, all with international connections, come here because Canberra is awash with money. We're a wealthy city. Money buys drugs, and drugs are the bikie gangs’ key product.
“It’s as simple as that,” Superintendent Moller says.
Across in Europe, four years ago a brave Dutch filmmaker named Joost van der Valk made a phone call to a leader of a notorious gang called the Crips.
Van der Valk knew the Crips gang boss well because he’d helped the film-maker gain inside access to the gang for the 2009 critically acclaimed documentary, Strapped n’ Strong.
Van der Valk is an unusual kind of film-maker. He’s an anthropologist, speaks five languages, and skillfully films, directs, and produces material across a range of subject matter for such diverse outlets as the BBC, Al Jazeera, and most recently, Netflix.
The Crips boss made a call to his contact, personally vouched for Van der Valk, and together with his partner Mags Gavan then began a two-year project resulting in a compelling, self-shot feature length doco called Satudarah – One Blood.
The milieu in which the Satudarah and other outlaw motorcycle gangs operate is familiar the world over: a close-knit hierarchy of male gang members, patched or part-patched, predominantly from dysfunctional, violent and/or broken homes, finding their identity in a group which uses fear and intimidation as important levers to conduct illegal business activity, mostly drug distribution.
Where the Satudarah diverge from the conventional however, is the gang was founded around a specific cultural grievance.
In Indonesia's struggle for independence between 1945-49, professional Moluccan soldiers (from the Maluku islands, now part of Indonesia) were recruited by the Dutch to fight in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL), to maintain order and disarm the rebels. In return the Moluccans were promised their own free state.
The promise was not kept and when Indonesia eventually achieved its independence, the Moluccans were seen as collaborators and had to go to The Netherlands.
This minority ethnic population was put into camps during the 1950s, became highly politicized as a result, and have railed against ongoing discrimination and disadvantage, and against the dishonoured promise of the Dutch government.
The founders of the Satudarah are mostly grandsons of KNIL members.
They understand the benefits of organisation and ruthless discipline within the ranks. From modest beginnings in 1990 in Holland, the gang has grown to 40 chapters worldwide including in Norway, Spain, Indonesia, Thailand, Belgium, France and Australia.
Van der Valk’s documentary also reveals how family dysfunction and economic disadvantage provides so much source of raw material for bikie gangs.
“These guys are not just like that for nothing,” he said.
“Their issues are grounded in the past with their relationships with their father, or the absence of a relationship with their father,” van der Valk said.
“Of the three main characters [in the documentary], one of them didn’t have a father, another had a father who hit him and almost tortured him, and then [the third one] had an incredibly troublesome relationship with his father.”
Van der Valk walked a cautious line with this documentary. In his film he wanted to show the world of rituals and brotherhood on the one hand, but also the darker side of bikie club life, which mostly happened off-camera, on the other.
To ensure the audience understand the nature of some gang members’ business, he used excerpts from radio and TV news broadcasts, together with court footage in which the members appear on charges such as the seizure of automatic weapons and serious wounding.
What he observed over two years of sporadic filming at gang gatherings and inside clubhouses, mostly with his hand-held camera, was a well-organised club overlaid, in the case of the Satudarah, with a cultural connection which attracts the disaffected.
It is also a very profitable club. Like any successful CEO, the leader of the chapter arrives at the party in a late-model S-Class Mercedes-Benz.
Superintendent Moller, of ACT police, says the bikie gang business model is the same the world over. The bigger the gang, the bigger the problem.
The gangs with international connections are positioned to profit most handsomely, as demonstrated recently by the seizure of $1.29 billion in drugs including methylamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, concealed within audio speakers bound for Australia.
The Australian Federal Police’s head of organised crime, Commander Bruce Hill, openly admitted that a deal had been done between the Mexican cartel which produced and packaged the drugs, and an un-named bikie gang.
“Outlaw motorcycle gangs are involved, one hundred per cent,” Commander Hill said.
“We continue to play top dollar for our drugs and this is an absolute drawcard for organised crime.”
Superintendent Moller said that the image of the “average Anglo-Saxon male with a big beard riding a Harley” was no longer applicable to outlaw motorcycle gangs.
He painted a picture of a sophisticated criminal network which uses its gang branding as a way of establishing its business credentials with other organised crime syndicates, like the Mexican cartel behind the AFP's recent billion-dollar ice bust.
"In organised crime circles, that OMCG patch is like a trusted brand," he said.
"A gang like the Satudarah has a network established across Australia, into Thailand, into Europe, and they know they can use that network to get the product they want at a reasonable price."
While the patches, rockers and leathers are part of the show, the business model was more like a sophisticated franchise inculcated through fear, intimidation and violence.
“I lot of them don't ride bikes. We look upon outlaw motorcycle gangs as organised crime syndicates, because that’s what they are,” he said.
“They establish a franchise, that might be a Comancheros franchise, a Rebels franchise or a Satudarah franchise, and from that gain a network of other franchises they can tap into, to gain access to illicit substances and goods.
“Within that network they have their own rules that they strictly adhere to, and that gives them the protection from the police that they need.
“They use violence and intimidation and they use that very well; and that’s why their business model succeeds above the others because they have that violence and intimidation. It’s a complete business model.”
He said that young men in Canberra actively recruited by these groups were being “completely used” by the senior members of the groups to “commit violence and significant crime and the young guys are getting locked up for it and the old guys just move on to the next young recruit that’s coming through, and feed off them”.
A key part of the outlaw motorcycle gang business model, he said, was racketeering. He acknowledged that the current turf wars experienced in Canberra had their basis around the desire for each of the rival clubs to expand their drug distribution network, and to exert control over that network through racketeering.
“It’s all about dominance and control, securing a piece of the market, if you like,” he said.
“They [the gangs] are actually getting two bites of the cherry. They sell the drugs to the drug dealer, and they also get a kickback for allowing those dealers to sell drugs in their area, so it’s a lucrative business.”
He admitted that police cannot arrest their way out of this issue. There are at least 23 outlaw motorcycle gang members currently serving time for various offences in Canberra’s jail, including two presidents of the local new Satudarah chapter who were locked up in quick succession.
So shattering this glorified bikie imagery is a key part of the prevention message.
"We want our kids growing up to choose another life," he said.
"We want them to be able to say: 'Hey that's not the life I want'."
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