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Friday, 9 September 2011

Police fear turf wars as motorcycle gangs expand operations


Motorcycle gangs, who are considered by Finnish police to constitute organised crime groups, have significantly expanded their operations in the past decade.       The gangs have spread so extensively throughout Finland that police fear that violent conflict might break out among them.       Motorcycle gangs have set up clubhouses especially in the Helsinki region and in the south of Finland, but activities have branched out to other parts of the country as well.       “Organised crime groups use the same methods as players in normal business. If there is a market somewhere, a section is set up there to secure their operations”, says Jussi Oksanen of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).       Police say that the three most infamous organisations, the Hell’s Angels, the Bandidos, and Cannonball have more than 40 subsections around Finland.       Police calculate that there are a total of 80 organised crime groups in Finland, including the subsections.       However, most of the groups using different names are not motorcycle gangs. There are nearly 1,200 members in the various groups. The newest, called the United Brotherhood, was formed out of three others, and has more than 50 members.       In recent years the gangs have avoided clashes, lest their main criminal activities suffer. Most recently Finland experienced a bloody gang war in the 1990s.       “There have been various clashes suggesting a resurgence of tension. In Germany and Denmark, the Hell’s Angels and the Bandidos have been on war footing. These are international criminal organisations, so the trend in other countries is reflected here as well.”       Leaders of the Finnish section of the Hell’s Angels are currently under suspicion in an extensive drug smuggling and dealing case.       This does not come as a surprise to Jussi Oksanen, who says that police have been collecting surveillance material on the organisation’s activities for a long time.       “The Helsinki drug police, along with the West Uusimaa Police can now demonstrate that the members themselves are involved in criminal activities”, Oksanen says.       According to Oksanen, actual members of the motorcycle gangs have previously been careful not to get their hands dirty.       “They have let the others do the jobs where there is a risk of getting caught.”       Police say that surveillance activities have revealed that the Hell’s Angels have used smaller gangs as partners. Traditionally the gang has been very careful of its image, and has avoided committing crimes that could bring bad publicity.       Police say that the Hell’s Angels differ from the Bandidos, and the purely Finnish Cannonball in that it has not set up many new subsections, nor has it taken actual supporter gangs into its organisations.       For instance, Bandidos has several subsections on various levels, which are seen as stepping stones by members who want to advance within the organisation.       The Hell’s Angels have had about a third of the number of members as the Bandidos, which has undergone considerable expansion recently.       “However, now for the first time a new group, the 1% Bad Machine 81 Finland has entered the Hell’s Angels’ official organisation. Why the group made the move right now remains unclear”, Oksanen says.       He notes that one possibility is that the Hell’s Angels are flexing their muscles for possible clashes to come.


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