Feeling the heat but still riding free

Photo: Uncleroo
Edition 18 May 2017, by Johannes Visser

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs (OMGs) may soon be out of town and out of sight. At stake is the National Prosecutor’s Office (OM) effort to ban the Bandidos biker group altogether, in addition to prosecuting individual members from several other biker gangs. The results are mixed.

On April 11th the 31-year-old president of the West Coast chapter, his ‘sergeant at arms’ and a third member of the No Surrender biker group were arrested in Ridderkerk. The three men have been indicted for stabbing a 40 year old male at an illegal steroids lab in this small town just southeast of Rotterdam in November last year. The arrest is the latest chapter in an ongoing, multi-year long struggle of the Dutch authorities against what they see as a ‘subculture of lawlessness’.

Infamous biker groups such as the Hells Angels, Satudarah, No Surrender, Mongols and Bandidos have been targeted by the justice system with a long list of alleged (transnational) crimes, including drug production and sale, money laundering, violent extortion and illegal arms sales. As opposed to ‘regular’ groups of motorcycle aficionados, it is estimated that eighty percent of these ‘OMG’ members have a criminal record, some of them having been convicted more than ten times. In fact, a criminal record used to be a prerequisite for joining some of these groups and a member’s criminal convictions actually raises his social standing within the gang.

High-visibility incidents involving biker gangs in the Netherlands include the physical intimidation of talk-show hosts Frits Barend and Henk van Dorp in 2000 by the Hells Angels, the conviction of its president Lysander de R. for arms possession and the use of violence in 2014, a gang-bang between the Angels and the Mongols in Rotterdam last year and several other instances of violent clashes and assassination attempts, followed by high-profile arrests.

Only since 2012 have the Ministry of Security and Justice, the OM, police, municipalities and the tax authorities begun with a more full-on and coordinated effort targeting biker gangs. This resulted in the closing of almost a hundred clubhouses in four years and a renewed focus on many of the 1800 OMG members. Tens of Dutch city mayors across the country have called for an all-out ban of biker gangs, echoed by several members of Parliament.

In November last year the Prosecutor’s Office formally laid down a request at the Court of Utrecht for the international Bandidos Motorcycle (MC) club and its Dutch chapters to be outlawed. In an extensive indictment the Prosecutor charged that the group’s disruptive behaviors have led to a substantial danger to Dutch society. Similar attempts to label the Hells Angels an international crime syndicate and have them banned in in 2006 and 2007 failed as the judge ruled in favor of the group’s constitutional right of association. With a longer list of indictments and new legal tools at their disposal, the Dutch authorities feel somewhat more confident that they will succeed this time around with the Bandidos.

A direct result of the hand-on approach by government officials is that top criminals are now less likely to join biker gangs, as not to become visible target for the criminal justice system. A few gang members have been convicted of crimes but many have not. After their club houses were shut down, some biker clubs simply moved and set up shop in a new place or local bar. And while the ban on biker gangs is still pending in court, these tattooed rough riders will continue to roar around town, in full sight. Most of them feel confident about the future of their club. And so, all eyes are now on the Court of Utrecht.