The rise of the Insta-Gangster
THEY are flash, brash and are only after one thing - cash.
Gone are the days of the handlebar moustache, ripped jeans and leather jackets; the men who fought over the patch worn on a vest, or because someone entered the wrong part of town.
Now cash is king, loyalty is dead and business is conducted between historically bitter enemies.
Welcome to the Gold Coast bikie scene in 2018.
The landscape has changed. Turf is a thing of the past. They operate fluidly, moving around the Coast and chopping and changing between the six remaining outlaw motorcycle gangs - the Commancheros, Bandidos, Lone Wolf, Mongols, Rebels and Finks.
Suburbs where blood was shed in the past are no longer fought over.
Surfers Paradise and Broadbeach were once carved up between the Commancheros, Finks and Bandidos. According to police, they are no longer the domain of any gang specifically.
Lone Wolf gang members still stick to northern New South Wales, along with the Mongols in Chinderah, but the area isn't fought over and the Rebels' hold on Nerang is said to be a non-event.
Arrogant claims made in October 2013 by a Bandido bikie that "we run this town'' are a thing of the past.
They're now a shadow of their former selves, having burst on to the Gold Coast underworld scene in the 1980s during a violent shootout in a Tugun park.
With gangs heavily involved in the drug scene, the Gold Coast became a bikie haven, the Glitter Strip their cash cow.
It came to a head in what has been coined "the Ballroom Blitz'' in 2006 when shots were fired, knives were pulled, fists flew and chairs became weapons as the Hells Angels and the Finks went toe to toe in the ballroom at the Royal Pines Resort, where a kickboxing contest had been underway.
Tensions between the gangs boiled over again in 2012 when an innocent bystander was shot in the hip at the Robina Town Centre as Bandido Jacques Teamo clashed with gunman Mark Graham, a member of the Finks.
A year later Teamo led a group of Bandidos down a busy Broadbeach street and started a massive brawl with another bikie.
The introduction of Taskforce Maxima and Takeback, along with the controversial Newman government VLAD laws, followed the brawl and spelt the death knell for the bikie gangs.
In 2018 the cops tasked to bring them down and disrupt their criminal behaviour are doing so well that some clubs are struggling to get their numbers into double figures.
A watchlist of members is constantly assessed. Police say bikies are fluid, moving between gangs or dissociating altogether - and the cops are winning.
WHO WE'RE DEALING WITH
In an expansive interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin, Major and Organised Crime Squad (MOCS) Detective Inspector Stephen Blanchfield spoke about the changing landscape of Gold Coast bikies and how police have become more adept at bringing them undone.
"The nature of them has changed. The degree of loyalty these people have is very, very limited. It's all about themselves and what money they can have," Det Insp Blanchfield said.
"Back in the day, for example, if you were a Rebel, you were a Rebel until the day you died and that was how you lived.
"Now we have patching overs - from one minute they're a Rebel, to the next they're the sergeant-at-arms of the Commancheros, now they're a Mongol, then they're in different colours in New South Wales.
"I think they're much more prepared to move around to get the dollar and they're much more prepared to work across gangs and across criminal society."
Loyalty to the patch appears to have gone out the window and several bikies are engaged in a seemingly desperate bid for attention through social media platforms - and detectives are cashing in on their ineptitude and seizing their ill-gotten gains.
"The idea of the bikies riding around on motorcycles, with torn jeans and leather jackets is gone. Now some of them have this gangster attitude, they're on Instagram with their rings and jewels, flash cars and those sorts of things. Well, we'll come and take the car and that's one of the things we try and do,'' he said.
"Instead of just taking action against these people for criminal offences, that might take 12 months to two years to deal with … well we want to show the community we're doing other things, so we take those cars and jewellery and show that's not a lifestyle people want.
"We also do some work in relation to the associates and the nominee members. We focus on them with some of our disruption strategies to get into their ear and tell them this isn't a lifestyle they want, because eventually you'll do time in jail and nobody wins when someone's in jail.
"There's been a fairly public OMCG member in jail who got some serious injuries. He got shown no loyalty in jail, so that's the sort of thing they can look forward to."
Insp Blanchfield is talking about infamous former bikie Jacques Teamo, who was set upon by other OMCG members in jail in May this year.
Det Insp Blanchfield said no matter the legislation changes or the work police did, there would always be a criminal element to the bikies floating around the Coast.
"They call themselves 'one per-centers'. Let's make no bones about it, they consider themselves above the law.
"They'll do any sort crime they want. As a starting point, some of the younger, newer members want to prove themselves through acts of violence, or overt types of crime like assaults and standover tactics.
"They're often used as cannon fodder by the club seniority for those sorts of things, because they can afford to be sent away for six or eight months for an assault. There is still that kind of pattern to behaviours."
FOLLOW THE MONEY
Det Insp Blanchfield said older bikies had become smarter with their money.
"There is no doubting that some of them are smart enough to look to divest their money and launder it and hide it through other aspects, and we're aware of that and we're pursuing that as well.
"Most of them are in it for money. They don't necessarily like drugs, they'll take them and use them, but primarily a lot of the senior people that we want to target are in it for the money.
"We can intercept drugs all day, every day, and they'll just get more because it's about the money, but if we start taking their money and cars off them, take their houses off them, that really cruels them.
"The lifestyle now is that. It's the fast cars, the InstaGangster rubbish. If you go back quite a few years where we policed bikie do's, they were out in the bush. Bikies were sleeping rough, in swags, no women around and they didn't shower for four days, just drank beer and rum.
"Now that was bikies 20 years ago. They're not that anymore, it's all about the money. The lifestyle is what attracts the people.
"Back then, that's what they wanted. Now they want the flash cars, they want to be on the Glitter Strip in the hotels, so we'll attack that."
Targeting their money was crippling gangs to the point they were almost extinct, with police using the skills of the economy unit to follow the money.
"That's one of the reasons why 'gangs group' has their own criminal economy unit and we work with all the government agencies in relation to businesses, tax office and ASIC to pursue those business avenues they're going down.
"The economy unit will look at everything. They'll look at businesses, how they're operating, what is it being used for, are they legitimate businesses, are they purely and simply a way of laundering money?
"We will work with ASIC to the point where we have assisted them to identify company directors who are criminals, OMCG members, and having them removed as directors of companies.
"We will work in with the tax office and they'll provide assistance to us to look at the ins and outs of the money, but they will also then look at the individuals as well, as far as are they paying their taxes on the money they are earning from various sources? They may hit them with a bill from the Commonwealth Government.
"Anywhere, where we can attack these gangs and hurt these people to make them stop, then we will."
CHALLENGES AHEAD IN THE WAR ON BIKIES
Det Insp Blanchfield said the VLAD laws - overturned by the Labor Government which introduced its own laws - and the changes since had continued to reap rewards, although their job was a little more difficult.
"I don't think it has gone underground … certainly the legislation changes, which meant they can't wear their colours, bring a challenge for us as police, although it shows the community that we have reduced them, and we have. We've significantly reduced the number of people who claim to be OMCG members, since 2013.
"We have quite a number of those members who have dissociated and that continues now. We had someone dissociate and complete the paperwork to dissociate just in the last two weeks.
"There will always be times when police can't be there and something will happen and it may be a shooting or an assault as a result of some internal strife at a club. We can't say that will never happen.
"It's not as if when the legislation changed they all jumped ship and we are just dealing with those who hang on, it continues to go on.
"The challenge for us is that it's not as obvious for us now. You can't pull a guy up in colours and know that he's a sergeant-at-arms at whatever club.
"It means we have to go back to some of our traditional style of policing - talking to people, getting around, talking to guys who are associates, guys who are members or ex-members and finding out from them what's going on.
"That old style of hitting the road, talking to people, boots on the ground type of policing is a big deal for us."