Police target Hells Angels in Gothenburg

Police in Västra Götaland in western Sweden raided a Hells Angels club in Gothenburg on Wednesday evening as part of national drive to tackle organized crime.

Police target Hells Angels in Gothenburg

The police operation targeted a Hells Angels chapter in Gunnilse in Gothenburg and several people were detained during the course of the raid.

“We were very happy with the outcome,” said police spokesperson Stefan Gustafsson to news agency TT.

The raid was part of an ongoing investigation into allegations of assault, robbery and aggravated weapons offences, and was preceded by surveillance.

Västra Götaland police were joined by officers from the National Criminal Investigation Department and hit the club premises at around 6pm on Wednesday and continued all evening. A forensic examination and thorough search of the premises was conducted later.

When the officers forced their way into the premises they found around 20 people present, of whom around a dozen were taken into custody.

“We didn’t ring on the door first,” Gustafsson said.

The arrested have been identified and were interviewed during the course of the evening and the prosecutor will later decide whether to keep them in custody for further investigation. Several were already wanted in connection with other ongoing investigations.

Elsewhere, Gothenburg municipality voted on Wednesday to call on restaurant and bar owners to bar anyone bearing a biker club logo from entry.

The proposal was presented in the autumn and the ban was voted through by the municipal executive board on Wednesday, the local Göteborgs-Posten daily reports.

Eskilstuna municipality took a similar decision last year but the ban was ruled unconstitutional by Södermanland Administrative Court in March 2010. The court ruled that that ban was in breach of legislation guaranteeing freedom of expression.

But Gothenburg municipality have decided to push ahead with the ban regardless.

“We don’t know if this part of our licensing guidelines conforms to the law and if it can be applied in bars and restaurants, but we see this as a show of support for restaurateurs and want to try it out,” municipal councillor Dario Espiga told the newspaper.

The three main criminal motorcycle gangs operating in Sweden are the well-established Hells Angels and Bandidos and the Outlaws, who are relatively new on the scene.

The groups themselves habitually argue that while individual members may commit crimes, the clubs themselves preach “brotherhood” above all.

According to a National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) report from 1999 however the vast majority of Hells Angels and Bandidos members held convictions, 22 percent of which were for violent crimes.

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Swedish mafia’s trademark cannot be rebuilt: police

Upon news that a man suspected as an accessory to a high-profile double murder in Södertälje was allowed to leave custody on Monday, the local community said a potential breakdown of the mafia trial would be "the beginning of a catastrophe".

Swedish mafia's trademark cannot be rebuilt: police

The release from custody of the 40-year-old does not, however, worry local law enforcers, although it remains possible that the verdict downgrades the accessory to murder charge.

Overall, the police said they were not worried that the case, which had to redone after a lay judge was found to be potentially biased in the first run last year, would crumble.

“On the contrary, there is more evidence this time around and it has

been worked through a second time for the retrial,” said Gunnar Appelgren, head of the investigation, one of Sweden’s all-time most complicated and expensive.

Eighteen people have stood trial in the recently concluded second edition of the court case.

The 40-year-old who left custody at noon on Monday is suspected of having played a pivotal role in the brutal murder of two brothers, of whom one was a local football star in Södertälje’s Assyriska club.

The suspect is not, however, the main kingpin, and Appelgren told The Local that the man did not have the clout to rebuild the Södertälje Network even if he were freed, which the police deem unlikely.

“A person can always go back to organized crime, but not in the same way. The key people are gone, and the Network’s trademark has been destroyed,” Appelgren said.

A local interpreter, who translated several interviews with witnesses, said the 40-year-old’s release from custody was no big deal. The name of kingpin Bernard Khouri, however, does still inspire fear in the community.

“If it was Khouri, I’d be worried,” the interpreter, who chose to remain anonymous, told The Local.

Khouri, who is being tried for conspiracy to commit murder, remains in custody. Local newspaper Länstidningen (LT) reported that he looked away as the prosecution showed pictures of the murdered brothers in the latest installment of the trial.

There were originally eight people standing trial for their role in the double homicide, but the first verdict found three of them not guilty. The prosecution chose not to attempt to prosecute them in the second trial.

The police do not fear any major revision of the sentences passed down in the first version of the trial.

“If it did, it would the beginning of a catastrophe,” a municipal politician told The Local.

“Södertälje cannot go back to how it was before the police stepped in,” she said.

Appelgren, who supervised the cross-agency investigation, admitted in 2010 that police at Stockholm County level had too long ignored the pleas for help from the industrial town, just shy of an hour south of Stockholm.

“It is difficult to explain the reach of this network, people lived in two different worlds,” the local politician said.

“A parallel business world, alternative banking with extortionate interest rates, a unique class structure…. when the police stepped in, people plucked up the courage to be Södertälje residents first and foremost,” she told The Local.

Ann Törnkvist

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