An analysis of outlaw motorcycle gang crime: are bikers organised
Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) are identified in Australia and internationally as
being heavily involved in organised crime and/or as being criminal organisations.
However, academic studies have shown that OMCG members are involved in
organised crime to varying extents, which differs between clubs and across
jurisdictions. To date, Australian studies of OMCGs are rare. Despite this, Australian
governments target OMCGs as key players in organised crime. This study contributes
to the existing literature by analysing OMCGs’ criminality in one Australian
jurisdiction—Queensland. It draws on rich qualitative data to determine whether and to
what extent Queensland’s OMCGs are involved in serious crime, organised crime
and/or are operating as criminal organisations. The study finds that Queensland’s
OMCG members participate in serious crime at a higher rate than the general public,
but that there are few examples of organised crime. There is little to no evidence of
OMCGs acting as criminal organisations.
Keywords: organised crime; outlaw motorcycle gangs; OMCGs; criminal organisations
Outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMCGs) have been the target of legislation in Europe, the United
States, Australia and Canada on the basis that they are involved in organised crime.
Depending on the country and context, the narrative shifts between claims that individual
members of OMCGs are involved in organised crime to labelling entire OMCGs as criminal
organisations (Gottschalk and Markovic, 2016). However, no government agencies from any
of these regions have provided detailed or reviewable evidence of these claims. The issue has
begun to receive attention from academia, which has sought to fill the gaps in the debate
(Quinn 2001, Barker 2007, Barker and Human 2009, Veno and Gannon 2009, Barker 2011,
Quinn and Forsyth 2012, Lauchs, Bain, and Bell 2015, Blokland, Soudijn, and van der Leest
2017, Barker 2017). These studies show that OMCGs participate in organised crime to
varying extents. Their participation can involve individual members, smaller cliques, or
larger networks, and this differs between clubs and across jurisdictions.
In Australia, governments and police agencies have identified and targeted OMCGs as serious
organised-crime groups (ACC, 2012, 2013b; ACIC, 2017; Byrne, 2015; Wilson, 2016;
Robertson, 2015b; Palaszczuk in Hansard, 2017). However, the evidence for Australian
OMCGs’ involvement in organised crime is sparse. Most studies have provided ethnographic
accounts of OMCG membership and criminality (Veno and Gannon, 2009) rather than
objective assessments. Goldsworthy and McGillivray (2017) used police records to examine
OMCG offending but focused predominantly on drug crime and briefly on extortion, rather
than all possible forms of organised crime. To date, no studies have looked beyond mere
offence types to examine the context and nature of offending—key information in
understanding whether offending is linked with organised crime.
This study adds to the existing literature by providing detailed analyses of OMCGs in one
Australian jurisdiction: the state of Queensland. It represents the first study to: i) examine the
extent to which OMCGs participate in serious crime in a single jurisdiction; and ii) analyse
the detail of OMCG members’ criminal convictions to determine whether there is evidence of
organised crime involvement (i.e. by members or smaller cliques) and/or OMCGs operating
as criminal organisations. In this regard, this study makes a significant contribution to the
national and international literature and debate about the criminality of OMCGs.
Defining organised crime
Governments and academics use many different definitions of organised crime. However,
they share points of consensus (Albanese, 2004). For instance, most recognise that crime
must be undertaken by a ‘group’ of criminals acting in concert (United Nations, 2000;
Abadinsky, 2016; FBI, n.d.; Albanese, 2004; Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (s.4)).
The United Nations (2000) Convention against Transnational Organized Crime went further
to specify that the group must contain three or more offenders (also reflected in the Canadian
Criminal Code’s definition (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2011)), while the Australian
definition specifies two or more offenders (Australian Crime Commission Act 2002 (s.4)).
Others do not stipulate a particular number of offenders (FBI, n.d.; National Crime Agency,
Organised crime groups must be structured or organised in some way (United Nations, 2000;
FBI, n.d.; Abadinsky, 2016; National Crime Agency, n.d.; Albanese, 2004; Australian Crime
Commission Act 2002 (s.4)) and members must commit serious offences (United Nations,
2000; Abadinsky, 2016; Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2011; Australian Crime
Commission Act 2002 (s.4)). There is some disagreement on what constitutes ‘serious
offences’ with the United Nations (2000) defining serious offences as those that attract a
maximum custodial sentence of four or more years, the Australian Crime Commission Act
2002 (s.4) designating sentences of three or more years, and the Criminal Code of Canada
(s.467.1) requiring sentences of five or more years. Some only include offences that are
committed for financial or material gain (United Nations, 2000; Abadinsky, 2016; Royal
Canadian Mounted Police, 2011; Albanese, 2004), while others do not include this restriction
(FBI, n.d.). Further still, some add that organised criminals tend to use coercive violence and
corrupt public officials to protect their enterprise (Albanese, 2004).
Rather than debating the merits of alternative existing definitions, this paper draws upon their
key points of consensus to define organised crime. The study does so in order to make the
findings as generalisable as possible. To this end, the definition employed in this paper is in
line with Article 2 of the United Nations’ Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
(2000), and is as follows:
1. A structured ‘group’ or ‘organisation’ (FBI, n.d.), which has three or more offenders
(United Nations, 2000). This number reflects sufficient people for organisation to occur
and to reflect a division of labour. In particular, for a group to be ‘organised’, it must
1a. a core of persons tied by racial, linguistic, ethnic and/or some other bonds;
1b. ‘protectors’—members who look after the group’s interests; and
1c. members who ‘knowingly’ provide specialist support to the group, even if this
occurs on an ad hoc basis (President’s Commission on Organised Crime 1986, 25;
2. The group must commit offences. For this paper we will take on the clarification used in
many definitions that these be serious offences for financial or material gain (UNODC
3. There must be an ongoing relationship between the group members for the purpose of
crime (National Crime Agency, n.d.; FBI, n.d.; Albanese, 2004).
While 1a–c are not part of the other definitions, they are accommodated in our study and do
not change the methodology.
The specific definition of ‘serious’ offences applied in this research is further discussed in the Methodology
At face value, OMCGs generally fulfil criterion 1 (and 1a–c). All have three or more
members and replicate to some degree the basic Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club structure of
an elected group of office holders with specialised roles (Abadinksy, 2016; Wolf, 1991; Alain,
1995; Barker, 2007). However, whether or not they (i.e. entire OMCGs and/or smaller
groups/cliques of OMCG members) fulfil criteria 2 and 3 is not as well established. That is,
there is clear evidence that members of clubs participate in crime, but not that their criminal
activity amounts to organised crime, and not that the club per se is a participant. The
following sections review the existing literature on OMCGs, paying particular attention to
OMCGs’ criminality and involvement in organised crime.
OMCG origins and offending
The culture and structure of OMCGs spread across the Western world through stories in the
media, popular film and myths built around the outlaw behaviour that inspired copy-cat clubs
(Gilbert 2013, Campbell and Campbell 2010, Dulaney 2005). In contrast to other clubs of
motorcycle enthusiasts, OMCGs perceive themselves as rebels and outcasts—the so-called
1% extreme (Abadinsky, 2016). In the 1980s, the expansion of OMCGs led to various
government agencies focusing on their illicit activity (Montgomery 1976; Hopper and Moore
1983). By the 1990s, US law enforcement saw OMCGs as ‘the new face of organised crime’
(Barker and Human 2009, 175). Internationally, OMCGs are now commonly referred to as
major players in organised crime (Alach 2011, Abadinsky 2013, Gottschalk and Markovic
2016). Most researchers agree that OMCGs have a worldwide reputation for barbarian
behaviour, such as the saloon culture of riding, drinking and fighting—the original outlaw
culture (Wolf 1991). However, the extent to which they are involved in serious criminal
offending, including organised crime, appears to vary across jurisdictions and between clubs
(Wolf 1991; Alain, 1995; Barker, 2007).
Alain (1995) studied OMCGs in Quebec (Canada) from their inception to 1988. He was able
to access police records and discussions with bikers, and studied fluctuations in biker
memberships, noting that there were inconsistent rates of criminality between gangs and even
by members of the same gangs. He found that membership of the clubs decreased over time
due to suspicion over potential new members who might expose drug dealing, the risks of
operating the criminal enterprise and the increased supervision by police. Overall, Alain
(1995) suggested that, reflecting others (Lowe, (1989)Veno and Gannon, 2009), being a
deviant group cuts OMCGs out of the social capital needed to emulate groups like the Mafia,
and the OMCGs’ high profiles contrast with the low profile needed for successful organised
crime. He found that OMCGs were ‘not as violent or as organised and severe as the common
view of bikers would lead us to believe’ (Alain 1995, 55). Another study from Canada
described the involvement of OMCG members in retaliatory violence between clubs, but did
not focus on whether they were examples of organised crime (Morselli, Tanguay, and
Barker (2007) said that many clubs (which grew out of the USA) had evolved from social
organisations into criminal organisations as they moved from simply facilitating criminal
activity to making it their primary purpose. He proposed a continuum from social clubs to
increased participation as ‘social criminal organisations’ through to ‘gangs’ or criminal
organisations (2007, 127). Barker (2007; 2011) provided extensive lists of arrests of senior
and junior club members and noted that, at the very least, ‘many clubs are social
organisations that have a large number of members who are involved in criminal activity’
(Barker 2007, 115).
Barker and Human (2009) conducted a newspaper analysis from 1980 to 2005 on the
criminality of the US Big 4 clubs (Hell’s Angels, Outlaws, Bandidos and Pagans). They
uncovered 301 relevant articles and found 89 (29.5%) of the 301 contained information on
OMCG members committing illegal acts. They concluded that 50.5% of these incidents
related to ongoing instrumental enterprises, which they concluded was evidence of organised-
crime involvement. Alternatively, Wood (2003) claimed that some groups, such as the
Mongols and Warlocks, were established purely to pursue criminal activity. However, no
supporting evidence was provided for this claim.
Wolf (1991, 265) saw OMCGs as being ‘pre-adapted as vehicles of organised crime’ because
they had a military-style organisation backed up by strict discipline and an exclusive culture
that placed the interests of the club above those of the community. However, he found that, at
least for members of the North-American Rebels, job choice was up to the individual and that
many earned incomes as blue-collar workers and tradespeople with little to no involvement in
crime (Wolf, 1991, 257–258). Despite this, he also went on to describe examples of
individuals or smaller cliques dealing illicit drugs, as well as being involved in motorcycle
theft. He described these activities as advancing from being ‘…a matter of occasional
individual entrepreneurship on the part of one or two members to being organised crime
conducted on a club level’ (Wolf, 1991, 267), reflecting Barker’s (2007) continuum thesis.
Wolf (1991, 268) concluded that OMCGs’ involvement in organised crime varies between
clubs and jurisdictions.
Blokland et al. (2017) proposed that OMCG members who are criminally inclined are drawn
to OMCGs and that, likewise, OMCGs facilitate participation in crime. The authors had
access to a database of criminal records of outlaw bikers, which they compared to motorcycle
riders who did not belong to OMCGs (Blokland, Soudijn, and van der Leest 2017). They
found that OMCG members were more likely to be convicted prior to reaching 25 years of
age, and to have committed at least one violence offence in this time. However, members
were more likely to be convicted of further violence or drug offences when they were older
than 25, indicating that those already convicted under 25 were drawn to OMCG membership,
and that those older than 25 were committing offences at a higher rate than those not in
OMCGs because of, at least to some extent, OMCG membership.
Klement (2016) used Danish National Police and Statistics Denmark to study the data of 307
bikers and, like studies in the Netherlands (Blokland et al. 2017, Blokland, Soudijn, and van
der Leest 2017), was able to compare the figures to a control group of non-outlaw bikers. He
found that membership or ‘affiliation’ increased property crime, drug crime and weapons
crime participation. He also saw an increase in violent crime, but his findings here were
Quinn (2001) claimed that radical activity increases with the anomic experience of a club,
namely when the club’s power and membership is waning. His conclusions come from
studies of broad sweeps of biker history outlined in historical sources such as Thompson
(1967), Wood (2003) and Barger (2001). However, this and later work (Quinn and Koch
2003, Quinn and Forsyth 2012) did not produce a detailed dataset of offending, nor explore
the context within which organised crime was allegedly being committed.
Overall, the existing international literature on the criminality of OMCGs indicates that club
members are involved in serious and/or organised crime to different extents. The findings
vary from allegations of management control of crime, that is, that the entire club or chapter
is a criminal organisation, to acknowledgment that Oorganised crime may be carried out by
individual members, small cliques. , or at the club level, though Given the scale of the studies
it is difficult to make broad generalisations and the practices may this differs between clubs
and across jurisdictions. HoweverFurther, these studies looked at correlations of crime and
club membership and did not examine the individual crimes to verify the correlation, nor look
for indications of the extent to which criminality fit definitions of organised crime. For
example, we do not know the scale of violence offenses or the nature of the drug offending.
Thus the existing literature does not effectively address the question of clubs being criminal
Australian OMCGs—history and offending
Most Australian clubs such as the Finks, Rebels, Black Uhlans and Gladiators were formed in
the late 1960s (McNab 2013, Campbell and Campbell 2010, Veno and Gannon 2009). The
expansion of the US clubs to Australia did not happen until the late 1970s. However, in the
early part of the decade, Australian OMCGs had a reputation for extreme violence and social
disruption including rape (Canberra Times 1970), murder (Canberra Times 1973), and affray
(Canberra Times 1975). This may have been a result of public awareness of the phenomena
resulting from biker-exploitation movies (Perlman 2007). Even in the 1980s the clubs spread
fear and strife, but, despite their reputation for violence, were perceived by politicians and
police as being predominantly a traffic issue, rather than participants in organised crime
(McNab 2013). For example, the Viking Tavern shoot-out between the Comancheros and
Bandidos in Sydney in 1984, and their associated social history, show two groups riven with
disputes that were personal slights and not battles over criminal markets (Harvey and
In contrast, McNab (2013) claimed that the first record of organised-crime participation by
Australian OMCGs was in the late 1970s when the Australian Chapter of the Hell’s Angels
began local production and supply of amphetamines, which they distributed through a
network of other clubs. He further claims that OMCG members and associates operated their
own networks in cooperation with external individuals and groups separate to the club, as
opportunities arose. Regardless, it was not until the 2000s that Australian OMCGs began to
be identified by government agencies as being heavily involved in organised crime, including
as criminal organisations.
In 2009, there was agreement that the amount of criminal involvement varied from club to
club and even between chapters of the same clubs (PJCACC, 2009). However, this narrative
changed after 2010 to one of Australian OMCGs being at the core of organised crime and
dominating the drug trade. In 2011, the Australian Crime Commission (ACC, 2011a) stated
that OMCGs presented a ‘significant threat to law and order’, especially through illicit drug
operations and links to non-OMCG crime groups. It described Australian OMCGs as high-
level criminal organisations (ACC 2012) that:
use their social networks to recruit partners in the drug market (ACC 2011a);
protect their criminal territory with violence (ACC 2011b); and
are one of the major groups involved in the production, importation and distribution of
methamphetamines (ACC 2011b).
More recently, the ACC (2013b) described OMCGs as ‘one of the most high-profile
manifestations of organised crime’, estimating that there are 40 clubs in Australia with over
6,000 patched members. Government publications, like those of the ACC, began referring to
OMCGs as a homogenous or even coordinated group. Contradictorily, the ACC made it very
clear elsewhere that organised crime is conducted by individual members acting without
direction from the clubs’ or chapters’ hierarchies (ACC, 2013). However, in a 2017 report, the
Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC, 2017, 12, 26) (which subsumed the
ACC in 2016) again referred to OMCGs as organised-crime groups.
In Queensland—the jurisdiction of interest in this study—OMCGs are now regularly
considered to be synonymous with organised crime (Byrne 2015; Wilson 2016). The State
Police (Queensland Police Service, QPS) officially refers to them as Criminal Motorcycle
Gangs (Robertson 2015), while the Queensland Premier recently stated, ‘We have taken a
very tough stance when it comes to combating all forms of serious organised crime, including
outlaw motorcycle gangs.’ (Premier Palaszczuk in Hansard, 11 May 2017, 1137) Despite this,
there is relatively little research about the extent to which Queensland’s and Australia’s
OMCGs participate in serious and/or organised crime. Furthermore, the research that does
exist does not support the conclusion that Australia’s OMCGs are operating as criminal
Previous studies of Australian OMCGs’ offending
Gottschalk and Markovic (2016) claimed that Australian OMCGs ‘engage in a wide range of
criminal activities’ but did not provide evidence for this claim. There have also been other
Australian publications alleging (Coulthart and McNab 2011, 2008) or denying (Veno and
Gannon 2009, Veno and van den Eynde 2007) organised crime by OMCG members. Veno
and Gannon’s (2009) extensive ethnographic research in Australia argued that if OMCGs are
participants in organised crime, it is the business of individual members and not the clubs
Goldsworthy and McGillivray (2017) used police data to determine the extent to which
OMCG members in the Australian State of Queensland were charged with and convicted of
various offences. Their analysis, however, focused predominantly on drug offences and
briefly covered money laundering; they did not report on all offending and could not, due to
the nature of their data, determine the extent to which offending matched definitional criteria
for organised crime. Nevertheless, they found that Queensland OMCG members’ criminality
had been ‘overstated’ and that their involvement in drug crime was minimal (Goldsworthy
and McGillivray, 2017). Another Australian article relied on a dataset of media reports but
did not set out to comprehensively analyse organised criminality (Vergani and Collins 2015).
Aside from these studies, the evidence base for OMCGs’ criminality is sparse.
In the absence of further academic studies of Australian OMCGs, we can also glean some
information about their criminality from two 2015 inquiries into the operations of the QPS
taskforces into OMCGs and the associated Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment Act
2013 (Queensland), passed to control criminal organisations with an emphasis on OMCGs.
During these inquiries, it was submitted by the QPS that, from October 2013 to June 2015,
OMCG members were charged with one or more offences 696 times out of 133,883 such
occasions in the same period across the State. Thus the OMCG members only accounted for
0.52% of people charged but 1.7% of criminal activity (Byrne 2015, 25, Wilson 2016).
OMCG members were charged with 1093 offences of which 52% were simple offences.
However, there was no evidence to support the conclusion that this represented organised
crime. Furthermore, only data on charges, and not convictions, were reported. As it turned
out, approximately one in six of these charges were dropped without evidence being
presented. It is not stated if this rate is abnormal in other circumstances (Byrne 2015).
Overall, studies that focus on the criminality of Australian OMCGs are relatively rare.
Despite some of the claims made by Australian policing agencies and politicians, who
perceive OMCGs as being synonymous with organised crime, there is very little objective
This study seeks to contribute to the existing international and Australian literature on the
criminality of OMCGs by examining the extent to which OMCGs in one Australian
jurisdiction—Queensland—are carrying out serious crimes, and whether or not there is
evidence that their serious offending is indicative of organised crime (either by members,
smaller cliques, or by entire OMCGs acting as criminal organisations). This research fills a
gap in the existing literature by representing the first study to draw on detailed case evidence
(as described in the following section) to explore the criminality of OMCGs.
Previous studies have adopted a variety of approaches to examining OMCGs’ criminality.
Barker and Human (2009) analysed newspaper articles, but this method can only provide
reliable information if it is limited to stories of convictions. Otherwise it is dealing with
alleged, and, therefore, unverified crimes. Barker added to the oeuvre with a further study
(2011) but this only added more conclusions without additional data. Blokland et al. (2017)
and Klement (2016) employed quantitative approaches to examining police data. This is
helpful but does not elucidate the detail of the offending behaviour, which makes it difficult
to determine the extent to which offending can be classed as evidence of organised crime.
Due to the limitations of Australia’s publicly-available data, it is not possible to replicate the
studies done in Denmark (Klement 2016) or the Netherlands (Blokland et al. 2017, Blokland,
Soudijn, and van der Leest 2017). No comprehensive databases of criminal records are
publicly available and if they were, there is no data-matching to identify OMCG membership
or create control groups of non-members. However, the methods used in this study make it
possible to provide greater analysis of offending than discussed in the Barker (2011, 2007)
and Quinn (Quinn 2001, Quinn and Koch 2003, Quinn and Forsyth 2011) articles.
This study triangulates three sources of data to improve validity and enable a more thorough
analysis of OMCG offending. These are outlined below.
Case judgements from the Supreme Court Library database (Supreme Court of
Queensland Library 2017). These judgements provided rich, qualitative data that
enabled the researchers to compare examples of offending with the definitional
criteria for organised crime. To locate case judgements, searches were made under
club names and names of individual members found in the media. For the period in
question, only Court of Appeal cases were routinely published. Thus while many
cases were identified, this is not a complete record of all judgments against OMCG
Media reports concerning convictions of OMCG members, which provided further
contextual data, particularly concerning the backgrounds of OMCG members and
their club membership. To find media reports, searches were undertaken through
library and public databases on the club names and ‘Queensland’. As stories were
found, further searches were made using key names and terms from events. More
cases were discovered that were not included in the original searches. As a result, over
2000 media articles were used in this study.
A QPS application to the Supreme Court to have the Finks motorcycle club listed as a
criminal organisation (Condon 2012). This document provided useful detail about a
single club chapter. It has also already been the subject of another study on OMCG
offending (Lauchs 2018).
Data from each source was collated and cases matched. Facts for each offence were matched
and a further round of Supreme Court Library searches conducted on the names of offenders.
Where any discrepancies in information occurred, the court documents took precedence.
These qualitative data are particularly useful in examining OMCGs’ criminality because they
provide details that cannot be gleaned from pure quantitative data. For example, under the
Queensland Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 not all convictions are the same—a person
may be found guilty but not have a conviction recorded or have a conviction but not receive a
prison sentence. Furthermore, offences may be associated with traditional OMCG
barbarianism, be linked to organised crime, or simply have nothing to do with the club. It is
also possible for violence to be enacted for any of these purposes and as such, are treated as
‘cross-over crime’ that need further examination on circumstance and motivation. The details
available in court judgements enable a more thorough analysis, including whether there is
evidence of OMCG members participating in organised crime.
Due to the detailed level of analysis undertaken in this study, it is limited to one Australian
State, Queensland, which has had the greatest public discourse on OMCG crime in the
country. It has had a decade of political responses to reduce, and eventually ban, membership
in OMCGs on the basis that they pose a threat to public safety and are major players in
organised crime. The QPS estimated that there were 900 patched members of OMCGs in
Queensland (Wilson 2016). As such, the researchers assumed that Queensland would have
sufficient OMCG membership and offending data to make a viable analysis.
The research questions for this study are:
1. What is the extent of serious offending by members of OMCGs in Queensland?
2. What proportion, if any, of that offending relates to organised crime?
3. Are there any indications that chapters or clubs control organised-crime offending?
The timeframe of this study is all records of OMCG offending to the end of 2016. This may
seem burdensome but very few offences by OMCGs were reported prior to the mid-1990s. To
be included in this study, individuals had to have committed offences in Queensland while a
member or prospect of an OMCG based in the State.
Once a list of individuals was identified, the following details were recorded:
Whether they were an office holder in the club and what rank they held. (This is
important in reflecting Barker’s thesis of control of organised crime.);
The types of offences of which they were found guilty. (Alleged offences, charges and
incomplete trials were not included; only guilty findings count as verified crime.);
The circumstances of their offending; and
The seriousness of offending.
As per the definition outlined earlier, only serious offences were considered to be possible
evidence of organised crime (UNODC 2002). Because this is a study of OMCGs in
Queensland (Australia), serious offences were all indictable offences listed in the Queensland
Criminal Code 1899 and other relevant State legislation (e.g. Drugs Misuse Act 1986,
Weapons Act 1990). These include the types of indictable offences considered by studies in
other jurisdictions beyond Australia, including intimidation and extortion, production and
trafficking of illicit products such as drugs and child pornography, prostitution, murder,
assault, weapons offences, kidnapping, rape, robbery and dealing in stolen goods. (However,
as will be demonstrated in the Findings section, only examples of violence offences, drug
offences and firearms offences were uncovered for the majority of offenders.) Following
Lauchs et al. (2015), this paper regarded traffic offences, drunk and disorderly and minor
drug possession as barbarian offences and thus, as being outside of its scope. It is important
to note that the court judgements are very clear on the circumstances of violence offending
and their motivation. Thus it was possible to classify acts of violence as either traditional
violence, organised crime or actions with no connection to the club.
The seriousness of offending was further gauged by recording whether incidents of offending
attracted prison sentences (similarly to the United Nations (2000) definition of serious crime).
To this end, each individual’s criminal records were categorised as: minor if no convictions
were recorded;2 medium if convictions were recorded but the individual was not sentenced to
imprisonment, actual or suspended; and major if the person was sentenced to prison time,
including suspended sentences. Criminal convictions obtained by individuals before joining
the clubs were not included—if it was not clear from their history or the judgement if they
were a member, it was assumed they were not a member. Individuals who only received
criminal convictions before joining, and not after, were also excluded.
Research question one was answered by determining the rate of convictions for serious
offending by OMCG members. To answer research question two, the authors searched for
serious convictions as well as circumstances of offending that fitted the definitional criteria
for organised crime, as described earlier in this paper (i.e. an organised group of three or
more people with an ongoing relationship for committing serious crime for financial or
material gain). In relation to research question three, the authors looked for evidence that
office holders were committing organised crime and that there was a link between their
activity and their rank in the club. This required office holders to be:
convicted of a serious offence,
fulfil the definitional criteria for organised crime,
In Queensland, it is possible to be convicted of a crime but have no conviction officially recorded. The court
holds discretion to make this decision during sentencing, and bases its decision on whether a criminal record
would affect an individual’s ability to gain employment, travel, etc.
include other OMCG members in their criminal network (e.g. rather than only
committing organised crime with other external networks), and
use their rank to facilitate their crime (e.g. order those below them to participate in the
OMCG members’ criminal records
After the searches, 137 individuals were identified. Of these, 20 were listed as having a
criminal record in the Finks Submission (Condon 2012), but no detail could be established as
to the content of the records. Therefore, these were not included in the study. There are
individuals from the same source who, while named in the document, do not have a criminal
record beyond traffic convictions. They were also excluded. There is also one individual (a
member of the Comanchero MC) who, although he was convicted in Queensland, belonged
to a chapter from another state of Australia. Therefore, he was also excluded. Another
individual was excluded because they belonged to three different clubs at different points in
time, making it difficult to draw conclusions about the clubs’ involvement. This left a sample
of 112 individuals, which equates to 12.4% of the QPS projection of 900 OMCG members in
Of the clubs that appear in the data, the Rebels were the largest with over 240 members,
followed by the Bandidos with 139, Black Uhlans (75), Odins Warriors (69), Hells Angels
(45), Lone Wolf (35), Finks (34) and Mongols (32) (Moore 2016). A number of other clubs
are believed to be present in the State but did not appear in the data.
Table 1 shows the types of criminal records held by the 112 individuals.
Table 1. Total criminal records by sentencing outcome type (N=112)
Criminal-record types Number of people
(% of total)
Minor 12 (11%)
Medium 12 (11%)
Major 88 (79%)
Total 112 (100%)
Twelve (11%) of the 112, whilst found guilty of offences, have never received a recorded
conviction. However, 79% of the group have received a prison sentence at some time in their
criminal career. The offending can also be broken down by club (see Table 2).
Table 2. Offending by club (N=112)
Club Offenders (% total
Major (% total
Minor (% total
Bandidos 44 (39%) 34 (77%) 2 (5%) 8 (18%)
Black Uhlans 4 (4%) 4 (100%) - -
Finks 39 (35%) 28 (72%) 8 (21%) 3 (8%)
Hell’s Angels 6 (5%) 5 (83%) - 1 (17%)
Lone Wolf 4 (4%) 4 (100%) - -
Mongols 4 (4%) 2 (50%) 2 (50%) -
Odins Warriors 1 (1%) 1 (100%) - -
Rebels 10 (9%) 10 (100%) - -
Total 112 (100%) 88 (79%) 12 (11%) 12 (11%)
The significance of these data are:
The Bandidos and Finks3 account for 74% of all offenders;
The Rebels, the largest club by membership in Australia, is comparatively under-
The Hell’s Angels, the epitome of the popular image of biker organised crime, account
for only 5% of offenders;
The QPS lists 40 chapters across Queensland (The Courier-Mail 2013), however, no
more than 20 chapters are present in this study. Thus, it appears that half of the
chapters of OMCGs in Queensland have not had a member with a conviction—at
least not that could be uncovered in this study.
Types of offences committed by OMCG members
Offending by OMCG members was classified as violent, drug related and/or firearms related,
because these were the overwhelming majority of offences uncovered in this study. The
remaining offences were classified together as ‘other’ offences; these included extortion,
rioting, burglary, tainted property (property obtained through crime) and money laundering.
This may be a reflection of the fact that far greater detail was available about the Finks from the Finks
Submission (Condon 2012). No other source could provide information about members with less serious offence
Violence offences include charges for assault, grievous bodily harm, murder, torture,
extortion (with violence), kidnapping and property damage. It excludes riot charges and
extortion where no violence was perpetrated. Drug offences include all drug-related
offending bar minor possession. Firearms offences do not include the use of other weapons or
Tasers. Table 3 outlines the types of offences committed by the 112 individuals identified in
this research, according to their club.
Table 3. Number of OMCG members committing offences by offence type and club
Club No. of
(% of total
(% of total
(% of drug
Bandidos 22 (39%) 20 (91%) 10 (23%) 9 (90%) 4 (25%) 4 (100%) 14 (70%) 8 (57%)
1 (2%) 1 (100%) - - - 3 (15%) 3 (100%)
Finks 23 (41%) 19 (83%) 23 (52%) 12 (52%) 9 (56%) 5 (56%) - -
1 (2%) 1 (100%) 3 (7%)43 (100%) 1 (6%) 0 (0%) 1 (5%) 1 (100%)
2 (4%) 2 (100%) 1 (2%) 0 (0%) 1 (6%) 1 (100%) 1 (5%) 1 (100%)
Mongols 1 (2%) 1 (100%) 3 (7%) 1 (33%) 1 (6%) 1 (100%) - -
1 (2%) 1 (100%) - - - - - -
Rebels 5 (9%) 5 (100%) 4 (9%) 4 (100%) - - 1 (5%) 1 (100%)
Total 56 (100%) 50 (89%) 44 (100%) 29 (66%) 16
Note. The ‘other’ offences category includes extortion, rioting, burglary, tainted property and money laundering.
Half of the 112 offenders (n=56, 50%) committed a violence offence and 89% of those acted
with sufficient frequency and/or severity that they were sentenced to prison. The Bandidos
and Finks were well represented in this category. The other significant area of offending was
major drug offences. As illustrated in Table 4, more than a third of the 112 offenders (n=44,
39%) committed one or more drug offences, though only 66% of those were serious enough
to warrant prison. The most common drug involved was methyl-amphetamine, either as a
The three Hell’s Angels members were all involved in the same supply ring (Da Silva, Da Silva & Spence v
DPP  QSC 316).
powder or ice. It is notable that two clubs have no members with convictions at any level for
drug offences. Again, the Finks and Bandidos account for the vast majority (n=33, 75%) of
serious offenders in this category.
The eight Bandidos with serious criminal records and drug offences were convicted of a
range of offences, including production and supply of cannabis and meth, and trafficking
ecstasy and meth. These offences were committed between 1996 and 2013. Seventeen Finks
members had drug offences and serious criminal records, though not all had been imprisoned
for drug offences. The twelve who were imprisoned for drugs were involved in production,
supply or trafficking of cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamine, lysergide (LSD), and
importation of precursor chemicals between 1996 and 2011. One Rebels member produced
and trafficked meth between 2000 and 2002. The locations of the offences and dates show
that there was no overlap in offending or indications of coordination between the operations.
Based on the data available to this study, all appear to be separate operations under Liddick’s
(2008) notion of independent networks un-associated with the club or chapter.
Very few members had both violence offences and drug offences on their records (n=19,
17%). Of those that did, 14 (74%) had received a prison sentence for at least one offence, and
ten (53%) had received a prison sentence for both. Relative to violence and drug offences,
firearms appear to play a minimal role in offending by OMCGs in Queensland; only 16
(14%) of the 112 offenders had these types of offences recorded. There are records of
shootings that have not been solved (Robertson 2013), but these events are rare. Most of the
firearms-related charges were for possession of unlawful firearms—either having them
without a licence or the firearms being banned in Australia. There are only three incidents of
convictions for firearms being used and none of these resulted in deaths.
Finally, 20 (18%) members also committed ‘other’ offences. These included extortion (four
offenders), rioting (seven offenders), burglary (one offender), tainted property (one offender)
and money laundering (one offender).
Overall, 88 (79%) of the 112 offenders had criminal records that resulted in a sentence of
imprisonment (‘major’ or ‘serious’ offending) (see Figure 1a). Of those, 32 (36%) had only
violence offences, 18 (20%) had only drug offences, three (3%) had only firearms offences,
and the remainder had either different combinations of violence, drug and firearms offences
(n=20, 23%), or ‘other’ offences (n=15, 17%) (see Figure 1b).
Figure 1. a) Major versus medium/minor offending (N=112); b) Types of major offences
Evidence of OMCG members participating in organised crime
A key consideration of this research is whether any offences committed by the OMCG
members could be classified as organised crime. In order to determine this, the authors
applied the definitional criteria (as set out earlier in this paper) to each of individuals in the
sample. Of the entire cohort, only seven individuals (6%) had records that pointed to possible
involvement in organised crime (i.e. they adhered to at least three of the criteria for organised
crime) (see Table 4). Note that the ‘ongoing relationship’ criterion in Table 4 was determined
based on evidence from the judgements noting an ongoing relationship in the criminal
enterprise separate to their relationship as members of their OMCG.
Table 4. OMCG members who committed possible organised crime; adherence to the
OMCG Offence/s Organised crime definitional criteria
1. Rebels Drugs: producing and
trafficking meth from 1997–
2. Rebels Drugs: producing and * ** *
Two OMCG members and at least one person external to the club.
Convicted of multiple indictable offences and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Later ordered to pay over $14M under the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002.
Two OMCG members and at least one person external to the club.
trafficking meth and trafficking
cannabis from 1997–2003.
3. Rebels Drugs and weapons: trafficking
and production of meth;
weapons offences between
* * * *
4. Bandidos Drugs and weapons: trafficking
ice and possess dangerous
weapons between 2013–2014.
X13 * * *
5. Bandidos Drugs: trafficking various drugs
Unclear14 * * Unclear15
Drugs: trafficking ice and other
drugs from 2012–2013.
* * * *
Drugs: trafficking ice and other
drugs from 2012–2013
* * * *
These results are further explored in the discussion section of this paper.
Evidence of OMCGs as criminal organisations—members’ ranks
One of the claims in Barker’s work is that the involvement of office holders in the clubs is a
sign the clubs are criminal organisations (Barker 2007). While there are some limitations
around this (e.g. office holders may commit crime without involving the club), it is worth
seeing if there are any indications of similar activity in Queensland.
Sixteen individuals in the sample—14% of the 112 total individuals—held offices in OMCG
chapters (see Table 5). (This excludes one person, who had been an office holder of the
Bandidos including national Sergeant-at-arms (SAA) when he lived in NSW. However, he
did not hold office in Queensland where he arrived as a patched-over Hell’s Angel.) Table 5
also indicates whether the individuals were found to adhere to the definitional criteria for
organised crime, as set out in Table 4 (above).
Convicted of multiple indictable offences and sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.
Later ordered to pay over $14M under the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002.
At least two associates, though it is unclear whether they were also members of the Rebels.
Convicted of multiple indictable offences and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
There is only evidence of collaboration with one other Bandidos member.
The prosecution’s witnesses implicated others in drug trafficking, but it is not clear how many others and/or
whether or not they were also Bandidos members. Media reports suggested at least one other Bandidos member
(also an office holder) was involved, but details of others’ involvement could not be ascertained.
As above, this is unclear based on the available data.
Evidence of collaboration between at least three Hell’s Angels members; also evidence that the members
funnelled proceeds of their crimes back to the Club.
Evidence of collaboration between at least three Hell’s Angels members; also evidence that the members
funnelled proceeds of their crimes back to the Club.
Table 5. Office holders (n=16)
Club Office Chapter Offence/s Also adhere to
1. Bandidos President Brisbane Public nuisance X
2. Bandidos President Cairns Drug production and trafficking Unclear
3. Bandidos Secretary Ipswich Grievous bodily harm and assault X
4. Bandidos Vice President Brisbane Arson X
5. Bandidos President Brisbane Violence and threating violence X
6. Bandidos President Brisbane Arson X
7. Bandidos President Brisbane Assault X
8. Bandidos SAA Cairns Trafficking, firebombing *
9. Bandidos President Gold Coast Violence, rioting and drugs X
10. Bandidos President Ipswich Firearms X
11. Bandidos SAA Brisbane Arson X
President Gold Coast Multiple assault, offending on
Secretary Brisbane Ice trafficking *
SAA Gold Coast Repeated drugs, firearms, assault X
15. Rebels President Mt Isa Trafficking X
16. Rebels President Townsville Drug trafficking, drug production,
firearms, offending on bail
Of the above office holders, one had only minor offences—for public nuisance—for which
no conviction was recorded. Aside from four office holders, the remainder, although they had
committed serious offences, showed no indications of being involved in organised crime. For
example, one Bandidos President was convicted and imprisoned for arson, but this was the
payback burning down of a rival OMCG’s clubhouse after the rivals ambushed and beat a
group of Bandidos club members. Three others’ crimes are based on barbarian violence rather
than organised crime. One had a history of violence offences which resulted in a series of
convictions and jail time for assault (Fineran 2010). This member also failed a drug test while
on parole and was subsequently incarcerated. Another was convicted of home invasion and
assault before he became Secretary of his club’s chapter. The third had a drug addiction which
drove his criminal behaviour, but there is no evidence that he was involved in organised
As indicated in Table 5, four office holders’ records indicate possible involvement in
organised crime (i.e. three fit the definitional criteria and one was unclear):
A Rebels President was convicted of trafficking in meth from 2000–2002. He
produced meth at his home where he also had an SKS assault rifle and ammunition.
He had been selling speed balls at the clubhouse since 1996. When he unsuccessfully
appealed his case, the appeal judge noted: ‘He used his presidency of the Rebels
Motorcycle Club to facilitate his cooking and trafficking in methyl-amphetamine. On
his own admission, that club was prepared to sort out disputes by violence when
necessary.’ It is not clear whether this member was supplying anyone outside of the
local chapter. The President operated with at least two other associates, but it is
unclear whether they were also Rebels members, or whether other club members were
A Bandidos President produced and trafficked meth from 1996 to 1999, and also
trafficked cannabis, LSD and tetrahydrocannabinal. He had four previous convictions
for drugs and was carrying on the business while on bail. The judge said he was a
wholesaler acting solely for profit with figures showing he could produce over
$60,000 (in 2002 dollars) worth of meth in each cook. He was Bandidos President in
Cairns for 10 years and later became Mission Beach President in 2012, presumably
after being released from prison. At least one other Bandidos member (also an office
holder) was involved, but details of others’ involvement could not be ascertained.
One Bandidos SAA trafficked meth from 2012 to 2013 between Sydney and
Queensland (Calligeros 2013). He operated with at least one other Bandidos member,
though it is unclear whether more members or external parties were involved in the
A Hell’s Angels Secretary trafficked ice out of his business in Brisbane (Robertson
2015a). He operated in an ongoing partnership with at least two other Hell’s Angels
members for financial gain.
Research question one: What is the extent of serious offending by members of OMCGs in
This study shows that those OMCG members who commit crime do so with sufficient
severity for 79% (n=88) to have received a prison sentence. This supports Klement and
Blokland et al.’s studies, which show a link between OMCG membership and serious crime.
However, it is an open question as to whether those with a criminal preference are attracted to
clubs or whether membership enhances criminal activity. Noting that most chapters in the
State do not appear in the study, it is likely that selection and enhancement arguments may be
applicable to certain chapters, such as the Bandidos and Finks, rather than being a universal
feature of all OMCG membership.
The other clubs’ rates of inclusion in this study are so small that it is reasonable to conclude
that serious offending is relatively uncommon in these chapters. For example, 10 Rebels
members appeared in the study—all with serious offence records—though this would only
make up approximately 5% of the overall State membership. What can be concluded is that
OMCG members offend at high rates and with greater severity than the rest of the public.
When we consider the number of OMCG members identified in this study who were
imprisoned for crime (n=88) as a proportion of the overall 900 estimated OMCG members in
Queensland, we can (conservatively) conclude that at least 10% of the total OMCG members
in the State have been imprisoned for crime at some point. The average annual imprisonment
rate in Queensland is 0.2% of the population (ABS 2016). Even if we multiply the
Queensland rate by 10 to reflect different inmates over time, it is still only 2%, or roughly
one fifth of the conservative, approximate rate for OMCGs.
Violence is the most common type of offence for which OMCG members are prosecuted.
Those who commit violence tend to do so more than once and 89% are eventually imprisoned
for these offences. The current reported rate of assault offences in Queensland is 0.4% of the
population; most of these offenders will not have faced prison. Conversely, 45% (n=50) of
our sample, or at least 6% of all 900 Queensland outlaw bikers, have been imprisoned for
violence. The members’ general propensity for violence may be an indication of the type of
person attracted to the OMCG lifestyle, and/or the type of person the clubs want as members
(Campbell and Campbell 2010).
The rate of trafficking, production or drug-supply offending reported in Queensland in
2015/16 was 0.17% (ABS 2016). Again, the OMCG members have been convicted and
imprisoned at a much higher rate of 25% of the sample representing at least 3.1% of all 900
Queensland bikers. However, the most significant finding here is the general lack of drug
participation in most clubs. Two clubs with violent offenders have no convictions for drugs.
Instead, drug offenders are concentrated in two OMCGs in particular—the Bandidos and
Finks. The most ‘successful’ rings (in terms of overall profit) were in the Hell’s Angels and
Research question two: What proportion, if any, of that offending relates to organised crime?
Only a small portion of the overall offending adhered to the definitional criteria set out at the
start of the paper. In total, seven OMCG members (6% of the sample) met three or more of
the definitional criteria. These members committed drug and weapons crimes.
None of the violence uncovered in this study showed any relationship to organised crime.
Instead, it appeared to relate to traditional values/barbarian behaviours or random acts of
violence—behaviour that would fit in Barker and Human’s (2009) ‘spontaneous expressive
acts’ category. For example, violence by OMCG members tended to relate to:
inter-club rivalry (e.g. the ‘Ballroom Blitz’ where a group of Finks entered a
kickboxing event and attacked a former member, which led to a brawl between Finks
and Hell’s Angels members (Condon 2012); a group of 40 Bandidos also invaded a
tourist restaurant to attack an associate of another club),
personal issues (e.g. two OMCG members conducted a home invasion and assault
because a girlfriend of one of the men was insulted), and
random violence, akin to Barker and Human’s (2009) description of ‘spontaneous
expressive acts’ (e.g. three OMCG members randomly attacked men and women in
the Broadbeach Mall after leaving a nightclub (Condon 2012); another OMCG
member faced the court on six violence offences, most of which were not related to
the club (Condon 2012)).
Research question three: Are there any indications that chapters or clubs control organised
Of those OMCG members in the sample, only 16 (14%) were office holders. Only four of
these office holders appeared to have any involvement in organised crime. In these instances,
the individuals were convicted of drug trafficking and appeared to operate in smaller
networks, containing mostly non-OMCG members. There is no evidence that office holders
were using their position to direct OMCG members to commit serious offences and nor did
they run their operations within the club. They had other members as co-offenders but it is
not clear that they were treated as subordinates, thus using their office to direct them, or as
equal partners in the illicit enterprise. It may be that no evidence was presented to the courts
to clarify this issue.
Overall, this study shows that, at least for the 112 individuals it considered, no evidence was
found that clubs operate as criminal organisations. Instead, the serious offending uncovered
was entirely the provenance of individuals and/or small cliques of OMCG members.
OMCGs have been identified, both internationally and within Australia, as major players in
organised crime and many regard them as being criminal organisations. This belief justifies
the creation of policies and laws that target OMCGs as key perpetrators of organised crime.
Although international academic studies show that OMCG members are involved in
organised crime to varying extents, there are few robust studies of Australian OMCGs’
This study contributes to the growing Australian literature about the criminality of OMCGs,
and also contributes to international debates about OMCGs and organised crime. Data were
collected from media searches, case judgements, and an application made by the QPS to the
Supreme Court to have one OMCG (the Finks) listed as a criminal organisation. The
researchers employed qualitative methods to explore the background and context of the
offending, with a focus on determining whether there was evidence of organised crime. It is
not claimed that this covers all crimes committed by OMCG members in Queensland, rather
just convictions that can be identified through our research methods. Thus our conclusions
relate to the dataset and are not claims about the entire population of offenders. Having said
that, this study has considered greater detail and a more thorough dataset than previous
research in other jurisdictions.
Like previous research, this study found that OMCG members commit crime, including
serious crime, at a high rate. However, most bikers have not been convicted of serious crimes
and most chapters do not contain members who have these convictions. Drug crimes were not
heavily represented in this study; instead, most individuals had committed violence offences.
These acts of violence were rarely related to the club and not related to organised crime. The
very few office holders involved in serious and/or potential organised crime did not appear to
use their positions in the clubs to advance their crime. Finally, no further evidence could be
found in any of the 112 cases studied of clubs operating as organised-crime groups. Instead,
in line with Wolf (1991), organised crime was entirely the purview of individuals and small
These findings run counter to the common Australian and international political narratives
about OMCGs as criminal organisations and, thus, make a significant contribution to ongoing
public debate. They match Barker’s (Barker 2007, 2011) findings that club officials are
involved in crime, but do not support the conclusion that the entire club or chapter is part of
the criminal enterprises. It does support Wolf’s finding that the clubs are pre-adapted to
crime, insofar as crime occurs within the clubs uninhibited by the presence of the majority of
members who are not criminal participants. Thus it is crime by individuals and cliques.
However, the data cannot confirm, and does not speculate, that crime by participants
increases because of their involvement in an OMCG (Blokland, Soudijn, and van der Leest
2017, Blokland et al. 2017).
The sample of offenders included in this study is not meant to reflect all offending by
OMCGs; it does not account for offences that were never brought to the attention of the
criminal justice system (including those that were reported and never prosecuted), nor those
where case files are sealed. However, by triangulating case judgements with media reports
and the Finks Submission, it is expected that few cases have been overlooked. Having said
that, their generalisability should be treated cautiously until further research is conducted in
other Australian and overseas jurisdictions. While the OMCG culture may be fairly
homogenous, the local environments may produce different outcomes for members.
Additional research is needed to further build on these findings, especially with larger cohorts
of offenders within and beyond Australia.
Abadinsky, H. 2016. Organized Crime. 11th ed. London: Thomson Wadsworth.
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