Scandinavian bikers target British firms

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The Independent Online
SCANDINAVIAN biker gangs are being hired by criminals in an attempt to seize control of parts of the British container shipping industry.

Executives of British companies have been given police protection after they and their families were subjected to death threats.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) in London is monitoring the activities of the bikers and has held a series of talks with Danish police.

The development is alarming at a time when the Scandinavian biker gangs are resorting to increasing levels of violence in a power struggle in Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles have been deployed in a feud between Hell's Angels and Bandidos gangs, which has left nine dead and almost 50 wounded since 1994.

British police believe the bikers and their business contacts want to use the containers for fraud, drugs, arms smuggling and tax evasion.

In the most worrying case, threats were made to a director of one of Britain's most prestigious container companies. The firm brought in CIEX, a specialist London-based private security firm with links to the secret intelligence service, to stop the threats.

Sir Benjamin Slade, owner of Shirlstar, a London container shipping company, said his executives had also had trouble from the Danish bikers. Shirlstar lost control of thousands of containers in an ownership dispute with the bikers and their contacts.

"They are a bad lot. My executives would turn up at meetings and find Hell's Angels with leather jackets sat at the back of the room," he said.

Two managers of another container shipping company have been given police guards. The pair, who asked not be named, travelled to Denmark under police escort earlier this year to give evidence in a trial following an attack on the founder of a major Danish container company.

A court in Roskilde, Denmark, heard that two heavily armed Hell's Angels approached their planned victim near his home but were intercepted by police.

A Danish businessman with a London-based container leasing company, was sentenced to two and a half years for his alleged part in setting up the attack. The night before he was sentenced he left Denmark for London from where he is conducting an appeal against his conviction.

British police have been concerned that Scandinavian bikers have been paid to come to London to take part in the campaign of intimidation.

Members of the Highlanders motorcycle gang, an affiliate group of the Hell's Angels, were observed by police in meetings with Danish businessmen at a hotel in London's Park Lane. Scandinavian Hell's Angels were also present at an anniversary party hosted by the Lea Valley chapter of the British Hell's Angels, in Luton. There is no evidence that the British chapters have become involved in the container shipping industry.

But the involvement of biker gangs in international commerce is a worrying development.

Commander Per Larsen, head of Copenhagen CID, said the biker gangs had set up a business empire which included shops, printing, tattoo firms and a debt-collecting agency.

A London-based detective, who has interviewed some of the British businessmen who were targeted, said the biker gangs have become astute in international business affairs.

"They have shed their scruffy image," he said. "Some are law-yers and accountants and they have set up a criminal operation that compares to the Mafia."