Scandinavia takes on its gangland warriors

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Scandinavian governments, shocked into action by a missile attack that killed two people and wounded 19 in Copenhagen, announced plans yesterday to crack down on motorcycle gang warfare, which is undermining the region's reputation for tranquillity and safety. The justice ministers of Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden said they would create a register of stolen weapons, examine the personal finances of bikers to see if they had obtained money illegally and co-ordinate police investigations into motorcycle crime across the region.

The Danish parliament has passed a law aimed at driving biker clubhouses out of residential neighbourhoods. The legislation was adopted four days after an anti-tank missile was fired at the Copenhagen headquarters of the Hell's Angels, killing a would-be gang member and a young mother who was attending a party there but had no other connection with the bikers.

Police suspect responsibility for the attack lies with the Bandidos, a gang which has been in violent conflict with the Hell's Angels since it moved into the region in summer 1993. Danish police havearrested a Bandidos supporter after discovering another anti-tank device buried under a garage in Kulhuse, 25 miles north of Copenhagen.

Last weekend's violence in the Danish capital had in some respects a tragic inevitability about it. Far from taking action to suppress the gangs' murderous and criminal activities, the Copenhagen city council has paid large sums in rent support to enable the Hell's Angels to stay in their headquarters at Titangade, the street where the missile exploded.

Despite the fortress-like appearance of the Hell's Angels premises, the mayor, Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, insisted on thinking of it as a "community centre" or "youth club" rather than a nerve-centre of violence and crime. However, as the number of violent incidents in densely populated areas rose, local people grew increasingly angry at the kid-glove treatment of the bikers, many of whom live largely on welfare benefits and the proceeds of organised crime.

The missile used in last weekend's attack was stolen in 1994 from army stores in Sweden. Other missiles from that break-in have been fired at Hell's Angels clubhouses in other parts of Denmark.

Danish experts on biker gangs criticised the Copenhagen authorities for not banning last Sunday's so-called "Viking party" at which the missile was directed. The woman who died was one of a number of local people whom the Hell's Angels had invited, in an apparent effort to improve their image in the neighbourhood.

Danish police said yesterday that they had seized documents at a Hell's Angels meeting place last week that indicated the gang was planning to expand into eastern Europe. Countries marked down for new operations included Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Russia and Ukraine.

Nine people have been killed and almost 50 wounded since 1994 in the feud in the region between Hell's Angels and Bandidos. One of the worst incidents occurred last March when the Danish Bandido leader, Uffe Larsen, was shot dead at Copenhagen airport after he and his fellow bikers were ambushed by a rival gang.

Less than a year before that, the newly elected Bandido president, Mikael Ljunggren, was killed by a sniper while riding his bike near the Swedish city of Helsingborg. Police said those responsible were either Hell's Angels or a Bandido faction opposed to Ljunggren's leadership.

However, biker gangs are not a new phenomenon in Scandinavia. One such gang, known as 666, was active in Denmark as early as the mid-Seventies.