Police in Tasman District today revealed they had infiltrated the highest echelons of the Red Devils and Hells Angels gangs, with undercover Police Officers gaining gang membership and providing detailed information about the gang's offending, intentions and activities over many months.
Early this morning the Defence Force flew 80 Police staff from Auckland and Wellington to Nelson assist local Police and NZ Customs with raids on the properties of Red Devils gang members and associates.
Tasman District Commander, Superintendent Gary Knowles said that since the Red Devils first appeared in the District two years ago Police had maintained that they were a puppet gang for the Hells Angels and were heavily involved in organised crime.
"The gang's supporters and their legal representatives have constantly denied these claims. 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 fact they are now manufacturing explosive devices to be used against members of the public underpins the danger these criminals pose to this community.
"These gangs are not a bunch of good old boys with bikes, they are organised, criminals and they are not welcome in this community," Superintendent Knowles said.
By 3pm today Police had searched 31properties in Nelson, Mapua Motueka, Takaka, Picton and Blenheim and seized the gang's Natalie St pad, along with a range of other assets.
Twenty eight people are now in custody facing charges ranging from dealing class A, B and C drugs, including LSD, ecstacy and methamphetamine, to being a member of an organised crime group under Section 98A of the Crimes Act.
Police have seized 11 motorbikes and a range of firearms including rifles, shotguns and pistols, some of which are cut-down rifles. Two pipe bombs were also recovered.
"This is a real concern and highlights the fact that the stakes have been raised in terms of public safety. Explosive devices are only made with the intention of killing or causing serious damage to life and property.
The headquarters of the Hells Angels at 28 Brentwood Ave, Mt Eden in Auckland and another private address in Auckland were also searched early this morning as part of this operation.
"What we have achieved today is the culmination of an overt and covert operation that is part of a long-term strategy to address organised crime in the top of the South," Superintendent Knowles said.
"We have successfully undermined this gang and our focus will now move to other like-minded groups."
During the 18-month operation undercover officers gained access to gang members' homes and businesses, and most significantly their gang pads.
One of the undercover agents became a member of the gang, gaining free access to the fortified gang headquarters and attending secret meetings of the gang’s inner sanctum, allowing valuable evidence to be collected.
Hells Angels HQ infiltrated
Deputy Commissioner of Police Rob Pope said today that the Nelson operation was a crucial part of the over-arching national strategy against organised crime and had enabled Police to seriously undermine the Hells Angels gang.
“Undercover officers successfully infiltrated the Auckland and Wanganui chapters of the Hells Angels gang, gathering evidence against members and entering their gang headquarters. This level of infiltration would not have been possible without the backing of the Nelson Red Devils gang.”
"The Hells Angels welcomed the agent into the fold, inviting the undercover officer into their Auckland pad at 28 Brentwood Ave in Mt Eden and allowing the officer to ride with them on their recent poker run," Deputy Commissioner Pope said.
"“The Red Devils and Hells Angels also facilitated one of our undercover officers gaining access to the headquarters of the Head Hunters gang in Auckland."
He said the information gathered enabled Police to establish the level of control and direction the Hells Angels had over the formation of the Red Devils in Nelson.
“There is no doubt that the intention was for the Nelson Red Devils to eventually morph into a Hells Angels chapter," Deputy Commissioner Pope said.
He praised the work of the Police investigation team and Undercover Programme involved in the build up and execution of today's successful termination.
"Those involved in this operation have conducted their duties to the very highest standard," he said
"Without their total dedication, infiltrations to the extent achieved could never have happened. The Police have done the community a great service in exposing these criminals," Deputy Commissioner Pope said.
He also praised the NZ Defence and Customs for their role in the operation.
"The inter-agency partnerships we operate underpin a whole of Government committment to the disruption and dismantling of organised crime in New Zealand," he said.
"By collaborating we are able to draw on the collective knowledge, expertise and resources to ensure effective targeting of organised crime groups and members."