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Posted by portugalpress on July 12, 2018

A massive national swoop mounted by 400 PJ inspectors on Portuguese and foreign Hell’s Angels opened on Wednesday morning with house searches in Vale do Lobo, and the stake-out of a warehouse in Estói.

By the end of the day, 56 bikers from the notorious group often associated with violent crime had been arrested over suspicions ranging from attempted murder, GBH and robbery, to guns and drugs trafficking and criminal association (see update below).

Among items confiscated were "firearms, knives, knuckle dusters, clubs and even a katana (Japanese sword)".

Says one tabloid reporting today, the police operation was surgically timed: the upcoming bikers’ fest in Faro next week, “could have developed into a bloodbath” had alleged ‘ring-leaders’ not been ‘taken out’ of the mix.

In a press conference late last night, PJ coordinator Manuela Santos confirmed that foreigners are among the high numbers arrested in a total of 80 searches in locations spreading from the Algarve to Setúbal, Lisbon, Aveiro and Porto.

Tabloid Correio da Manhã this morning cites “Germans and Finns” and adds that “various international arrest warrants” have since been issued.

According to SIC television, the searches began in the Algarve: two properties were raided in Vale do Lobo, while PJ police staked out a warehouse in Estói from which they have since removed various documents after arresting the “man who eventually came to open up at around 11am yesterday morning”.

The bottom line appears to be that this is about rivalries between two hard-core groups: the Hell’s Angels (which began establishing itself in the Algarve 20 years ago) and the Red & Gold branch of “Los Bandidos” - a group led in Portugal by an alleged “skinhead” called Mário Machado.

CM maintains “the bloody rivalry between the Hell’s Angels and Machado’s Los Bandidos started in 1994 in Scandinavia. It became known as the ‘Biker Wars’, with more than 10 people having been killed”.

Four months ago in Loures, a Hell’s Angels attack on six “Los Bandidos” bikers left three in a critical condition in hospital after being stabbed in “vital organs”. At least three of the injured were German nationals.

But attacks go back years, and if CM is to be believed, the issue is all about which biker group holds control of a protection racket that has the owners of bars and discos in the Algarve living “in fear”.

Says CM, the Hell’s Angels control over nightclubs in the Algarve is “almost absolute” - and with this control comes “the freedom to conduct activities like prostitution and arms and drugs trafficking”.

The PJ’s recently-appointed national director Luís Neves told reporters that yesterday’s operation was “a question of freedom”. The net result is that “activity has calmed”, added coordinator Manuela Santos.

Other papers following up this story have given a bit more ‘history’ to the conflict: Mário Machado, for example, first came to the authorities’ notice as a member of the extreme right-wing group “Hammerskins”. He has been jailed in the past for racial violence, writes Observador, and he has “promised vengeance. Turned towards television cameras in front of the Lisbon base of the PJ, he has used his hand to show a decapitation. He was giving a message”, adds the news site.

A statement issued by the PJ described the men arrested yesterday as “suspected of being part of a criminal structure made up of extremely dangerous individuals with vast criminal backgrounds and wide experience in violent and organised crime”.

Ages of those arrested range from 30 to 69.

Público claims the 69-year-old arrested, a Hell’s Angel ‘leader’, is a martial arts master with “an immaculate record” (ie has never been cited for any crimes).

The paper adds that among the foreigners arrested was one Briton.

The men are all being taken before magistrates at Campus da Justiça in Lisbon this morning. Terms of bail or otherwise are expected to be announced later today, or possibly this evening.

UPDATE MIDDAY: Three further arrests have been confirmed, at least one of them in Germany on the back of an International Arrest Warrant.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com

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