Portuguese twin brothers Bruno and Nuno da Silva are now serving jail sentences for their part in what Australian authorities claim was a €1.7 million ice (aka crystal methamphetamine, or crystal meth) racket that financed, at least in part, the Hells Angels bikers’ gang.
The case has been hailed as significant as it “provides one of the few recorded examples of a bikie gang receiving money directly from members’ criminal activity”, writes the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
It is this kind of “evidence” that “police would need to show more of to bolster their claim that bikie gangs are in effect criminal franchises”, adds the paper.
As the da Silva twins return to the prison cells they have been in since their arrests back in 2013, Correio da Manhã newspaper explains that Portugal has five Hells Angels groups on national soil: two in Lisbon, one in the Algarve, another in Setúbal and a fifth in Porto.
Elsewhere, there are Hells Angels clubs throughout America, South America and Europe.
In this particular case, the da Silva brothers appear to have built a millionaire empire from a “single mobile key-cutting service”.
Their criminal activities appear to have gone under the wire for years, until their offices were targeted by a rival biker group in 2012.
It was then that journalists started joining the dots: Bruno had been pulled over in 2004 with 130,000 Australian dollars in a shopping bag. He claimed at the time that it was “gifts” to his brother Nuno who had just married a lawyer.
“That a Hells Angel was married to a lawyer exemplified the often surprising and complex web of relationships surrounding members of the world’s oldest and largest outlaw motorcycle club,” writes the Guardian’s Joshua Robertson.
There were other ‘clues’ that all was not kosher at Millennium Locks. Complaints, for instance, that the brothers “had made death threats to competitors” and burglaries that “allegedly occurred in premises coincidentally after servicing by Millennium Locks”.
In the end, a 16-month undercover police surveillance revealed the business was “nothing more than a front for a multimillion dollar ice trafficking ring that was keeping Hells Angels coffers flush with cash”, reports local Brisbane newspaper, the Courier and Mail.
But while Nuno is likely to be granted conditional bail on his seven-year conviction as early as next month (brother Bruno will have to wait longer, as he was convicted for nine years), very little by way of spin-off arrests appears to be in the pipeline.
The Guardian concludes that “investigators estimated the da Silvas made 2.5 million dollars from trafficking ice, but no financial analysis was done to back that, and the amount which went to the Hells Angels is unknown”; while CM says the prosecution “doesn’t know” where all the money went.
The consumption of ice in Australia has been described as a “devastating epidemic that has torn communities apart”, the Telegraph reported last November.
Ice is described as a “strong central nervous system stimulant” that can give users “insane strength”.
It has “made people scared of their kids and grandkids”, explained one police inspector, and it is easy to get hold of, and “as cheap as a carton of beer”.