The rough guide to biker gangs

Published: 20 May 2002

A bloody gun battle in a Nevada casino has put the spotlight back on bike gangs. The fighting between Hell’s Angels and Mongols in Harrah’s Casino, Nevada, left three dead. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It is one incident in an escalating number of bike gang-related disputes, and they aren’t confined to the U.S. In Quebec alone 150 bikers have been killed in six years in clashes involving Hell’s Angels and the Rock Machine gang.

In Scandinavia last year the government passed a law banning biker gangs from the country after fighting between the Bandidos and Hell’s Angels claimed the lives of 13 members in the last seven years.

In Australia it’s the Gypsy Jokers who are running amok.

None of them are doing the reputation of the everyday rider any good at all.

Our round-up reveals the extent of this global problem.

Name: Hell’s Angels. Location: America, plus chapters worldwide

History: Started after World War II as ex-army bike riders took the Hell’s Angels name that had been used by military fighter squadrons and set up a bike club. You don’t have to ride a Harley. Prospective members have to hang around the clubhouse before being voted in. Cops aren’t allowed and black members are rare as hen’s teeth.

Criminal acitivity: Drug running, violence, protection rackets, murder, you name it, an Angel somewhere has probably been charged with it. Boss of the Canadian chapter, Maurice Boucher, has been jailed for 25 years after murdering two prison guards. Many of the 120 members now face either murder or drug trafficking charges.

How hard?: The largest biker gang in the world with over 200 chapters the Hell’s Angels code states that if you mess with one you mess with the whole gang. Leader Sonny Barger reckons the best way to stop a fight is to pop someone’s eyeball out.

Name: Bosozoku Location: Japan

History: Started in 1960 as rebellious teenage motorheads who liked nothing more than taunting cops and pushing their machines to the limits the Bosozoku, or violent race tribe as it translates, ride stupidly modified bikes with outrageous bodywork conversions. Gang members must leave as soon as they are 18. Many choose to join the Yakuza, the Japanese Mafia.

Criminal acitivity: Speeding, evading capture, dangerous driving and inter-gang fights lead to murders. Bosozoku crime has more than doubled since 1996 as gangs have increased in size.

How Hard? Bosozoku have started using bats, steel pipes, knives and guns. In Tokyo, a recent scrap left six Bosozoku in hospital.

Name: Bandidos Location: Southern US and Europe

History: Mainly found in Texas the Bandidos are seen by many as Hillbillies but their numbers are growing and the gang is expanding all over the U.S. and into Europe. Fighting in Scandinavia between a Bandido group and a chapter of the Hell’s Angels claimed 13 lives in seven years.

Criminal Activity: Drug running, protection rackets, murder, etc. Much of the fighting in Scandinavia is over who controls the lucrative drug business.

How hard? Not quite as hard as the Hell’s Angels but not a nice bunch. They often join up with other gangs to try and oust the Angels. The latest clash was at a Nevada casino (see above), where they teamed up with the Mongols.

Name: Rock Machine Location: Canada

History: In the last six years Vancouver-based Rock Machine has waged a turf war with the Hell’s Angels. Over 150 bikers have been killed as the two gangs battle for control of lucrative money laundering, prostitution and drug industries in Canada.

Criminal activity: Drugs, prostitution, murder, money laundering etc.

How hard? Hard enough to take on the Hell’s Angels and not back down. Rock Machine are a force to be reckoned with. Weapons used by the gang include machine guns and rocket launchers. Beats knuckle dusters.

Name: Gypsy Joker Location: Australia History: Always in the Australian news, the Gypsy Joker gang is the biggest in Oz. Gang member John Reid is currently being tried over the murder of two cops. Other members have been charged with crimes including blowing up a hotel that refused to let them stay, murdering a cop, drugs charges and invading small towns and refusing to leave. Leader Lennard Kirby is currently facing charges of possessing £2 million of drugs and various firearms.

Criminal acitivity: Murder, arson, and possession of firearms, the full monty.

How hard? As nails.