Government steps up war on gangs as state commissioner tells of high-level associations.
Australia has stepped up its war against bikies as the Victorian Police confirmed the force had been infiltrated and major investigations disrupted.
While Victoria yesterday launched a new task force into corruption and outlaw motorcycle clubs, Queensland this week overcame a High Court challenge to tough new laws and New South Wales passed similar anti-bikie legislation.
Previous crackdowns have been defeated by gangs in the court.
Federal and state governments are also considering proposals by Prime Minister Julia Gillard for new national powers based on America's Federal Bureau of Investigation to combat bikie gangs.
The proposals include an anti-gang taskforce and intelligence centre to target gang members across the continent, provide intelligence on gangs to Australian and international crime agencies, a clampdown on "unexplained wealth", and nationwide consorting laws.
In Victoria, Police Chief Commissioner Ken Lay announced Task Force Eagle amid revelations of high-level infiltration and continuing associations between police and bikies.
"We are still seeing on a regular basis [police officers] either behaving in a criminal manner, members being very naive or members being very stupid when it comes to bikies," he told ABC Radio.
He said officers risked cultivation by bikies through bars and tattoo parlours linked to outlaw clubs.
Lay's warning was supported by a police statement confirming that bikie gangs were trying to corrupt police.
"This will not be tolerated," it said.
"[Outlaw clubs] have a clear interest in cultivating police contacts so that they can be compromised and coerced into providing police information.
"We are sending a clear warning to police members that they need to be alive to the threats at all times and complying with internal policies designed to protect them and the organisation." The statement followed an investigation by Fairfax Media, published in the Age yesterday, implicating Victorian Comanchero president Amad Malkoun and Bandidos sergeant-at-arms Toby Mitchell in corruption.
Malkoun denied the claim.
The Fairfax investigation said the long-standing cultivation of police by high-ranking bikies and their associates had compromised the safety of undercover officers and informers and jeopardised investigations, including two major probes into Malkoun.
At least 12 police officers were suspected of "inappropriate links" to outlaw clubs.
Malkoun is a multi-millionaire former nightclub owner, jailed for 18 years in 1988 for heroin trafficking. He became the state's Comancheros president three years ago.
Mitchell almost died in assassination attempts in November 11, when he was shot five times, and last month, when his arm was hit by gunfire.
Fairfax said Mitchell had communicated regularly over the past two years with a police officer who allegedly withheld information about the attempted hits, and warned the bikie to avoid police attention.
The report said Malkoun had avoided arrest for a decade through his links to corrupt police and that leaks from police had compromised two federal international drug trafficking investigations.
His syndicate had accessed "extraordinarily sensitive" law enforcement information, including details suspected to have come from a secret and supposedly highly secure police list of Australian organised crime targets, Fairfax said.
Police phone taps in February 2011 recorded a conversation between Malkoun and crime figure Nick Zakharia in which they discussed a classified national list of organised crime targets, and Malkoun was warned he was under surveillance.
The Hells Angels and Black Uhlans had also received highly confidential police documents.
The Fairfax allegations come as tensions among the more than 1200 bikies in Victoria continue to move closer to a war, with Bandidos and Hells Angels exchanging 30 shots in street gunfights this month.
Outlaw clubs are recruiting members in prisons and are extending into country towns.
In Queensland, the State Government's High Court victory has given police wide new powers expected to be followed by other states.
Their first target will be The Finks, which police will seek to have declared a criminal organisation in the State Supreme Court, enabling the declaration of orders to ban members from associating with each other.
The orders could also outlaw recruiting by the club and exclude members from employment in the security and other industries.
NSW's new laws, modelled on Queensland legislation, provides for similar measures.