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Red Devils, a "puppet gang" of the Hells Angels.

Friday, 11 March 2011

NEW ZEALAND police seized explosives, drugs and firearms in a series of dawn raids on biker gangs today following an 18-month undercover investigation, officials said.

An air force Hercules flew 90 officers to the South Island town of Nelson, where they used a backhoe to smash their way into the headquarters of the Red Devils, a "puppet gang" of the Hells Angels.

Another 150 officers raided more than 30 properties in the South Island and Auckland, including the Hells Angels' headquarters, Supt Gary Knowles said.

Knowles said the operation, in which undercover police officers joined the gangs and gained access to their fortified headquarters, was a "huge" blow to the Hells Angels' plans to expand operations in New Zealand.

"The Hells Angels are part of a global crime organisation and the fact that we were able to infiltrate them will send a ripple around the world," he said.

Twenty-eight people were arrested and charged with a range of drug offences and being members of an organised crime gang.

Knowles said the discovery of pipe bombs among the bikers' weaponry showed the gangs had "raised the stakes" in attempts to increase their criminal activities, saying such devices were intended only to kill or maim.

"The fact they are now manufacturing explosive devices to be used against members of the public underpins the danger these criminals pose to this community," he said.

Knowles said the operation exploded the myth put forward by the Red Devils and their legal representatives that they were simply a social club for motorcycle enthusiasts and had no links to the Hells Angels.

"These gangs are not a bunch of good old boys with bikes, they are organised criminals," he said.

"What we have revealed today is the extent of the gang's firearms trading, the work they have done to develop drug supply lines, extortion, burglaries and moving stolen property around the country."

The operation follows raids last month on dozens of properties linked to the Rebels biker gang, an Australian group police say are also trying to expand in New Zealand.

Police Minister Judith Collins said police and the government would "use every tool at their disposal" to close down the gangs.


A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

A person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty

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