Dutch Hells Angels
File photo of Dutch Hells Angels. Image Credit: AFP

THE HAGUE: Dutch judges on Wednesday banned biker club Hells Angels and ordered all its chapters to close in the Netherlands as authorities pursue a clampdown on so-called outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The countrywide ban is a first for the club that operates some 470 chapters in more than 50 nations around the world, the Dutch public broadcaster NOS said.

“The Hells Angels is a danger to the public order,” the court in the central Dutch city of Utrecht ruled.

“The Hells Angels sees itself as a one-percenter club, a club of outlaws,” said the court, citing a slogan used by biker gangs rejecting the authority of national laws or societal norms.

“It’s a club where there’s a culture of lawlessness and the authorities are kept outside their doors,” the court added in a statement.

It referred to a number of patches or so-called “colours” on the cut-off vests of the Hells Angels, called “cuts”, saying “they are handed out to members who commit [serious] violence”.

“The Hells Angels’ profile is that of the largest and most powerful motorbike club. They believe other clubs should listen to them and that leads to long-running conflicts.”

Dutch prosecutors, who have been trying for more than a decade to have the club banned, referred to an incident in the southern town of Kerkrade where a cafe frequented by rival gang Bandidos was set on fire in 2015.

In another incident the following year, Hells Angels were involved in a massive brawl in the restaurant of a Rotterdam hotel, allegedly with members of another rival club. Shots were fired.

Image of violence

“These incidents portray an image of violence by and against the Hells Angels,” the court said.

The ban also comes as 17 Hells Angels members were arrested in Portugal last week for “threatening national security”.

The bikers join 41 others, who were being held since July 2018 after a group of around 100 bikers attacked a rival biker group in a Lisbon suburb.

The banning of the Hells Angels, founded in the late 1940s in California, is the latest in attempts by Dutch authorities to shut down outlaw gangs often involved in crimes such as drug and arms trafficking.

The same court in Utrecht in 2017 banned the Hells Angels’ arch-rivals, the Bandidos, for similar reasons.

Judges also banned home-grown club Satudarah last year, saying it too “has been involved for many years in criminal activities including violence against other motorcycle clubs, manufacturing and trafficking in narcotics, the illegal possession of weapons and extortion”.