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Rebels gang looking to set up Chch drugs ring - police

Published: 5:49AM Friday December 02, 2011 Source: Fairfax

Outlawed Australian motorcycle gang the Rebels are in Christchurch to set up a drug-dealing ring, police say.

Police are vowing to clamp down on the gang, whose North Island leaders, along with dozens of other members, recently hit the city for a major poker run.

The gang is operating out of an address at Racecourse Rd in Sockburn, which was the target of a recent Molotov cocktail attack.

There has also been a firebomb attack this year at a property connected to the Rebels in Ashburton.

Most of the members who came to Christchurch for the poker run stayed at the Racecourse Rd address.

"There are about five patched members who are part of the gang and it seems they are connected to this address out in Racecourse Rd, where one of the patched members is operating out of," Detective Inspector Greg Williams said.

"They seem to be happy to establish these chapters throughout the country by gifting patches out to people."

Canterbury University sociologist and gang expert Dr Jarrod Gilbert has associated with the group.

"A lot of outlaw clubs in this city have fallen by the wayside in recent times.

"This group is, by all accounts, well organised and keen to set up and maintain a presence here," Gilbert said. "And I don't think they're going to do anything to jeopardise that."

The group itself was not necessarily an organised criminal gang, even though some of its members might be involved in illegal activity, Gilbert said.

"It's a misconception that these types of groups tend to act in concert with organised criminal activity - not unprecedented, and of course it does occur, but it's rare.

"And the evidence for that is there are comparatively very few convictions for wholesale criminal activity for the clubs themselves," Gilbert said.

The group was being set up in Christchurch to form a "brotherhood and sense of family", but police vigilance was needed, Gilbert said.

However, Williams insisted the Rebels were a criminal gang who wanted to make money through crime.

"This is certainly no way this is just a good old motorcycle club.

"They are a big organised criminal enterprise who operate primarily out of Australia," he said.

"They can say what they like but that's the reality of what they're about [making money]. A lot of it is around methamphetamine dealing, dealing in cannabis, frauds, dealing in stolen property and the likes."

Police are also monitoring another outlaw motorcycle gang, the Epitaph Riders, which has set up in Hornby.

"The Epitaphs seem to have established some pad, or HQ, or house where some members are residing not far away from where the Rebels are," Williams said.

Rebels leaders, or "heavy hitters", from the North Island were in Christchurch for the poker run.

"These are people with good criminal history who are on the top end of this organisation," Williams said.

The poker run passed mostly without incident, with only a few Rebels members arrested for traffic offences and one on an existing warrant.

Williams urged landlords not to rent to such gangs. "Think twice before you let to them because once they're in it's going to create an issue."

The Australian gang established a presence in New Zealand this year and is operating mostly in Northland, the Bay of Plenty and Taranaki.

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