Bikie gangs muscle in on car wash businesses

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Outlaw motorcycle gangs have gained a foothold in Melbourne's lucrative car wash business after establishing a strong presence in the security, tattoo, brothel and debt collection industries.

Ali Kesici, a senior Comanchero member. Photo: Penny Stephens

 
 

The Comancheros have a stake in several car washes in Port Melbourne and St Kilda and have threatened the owners of rival businesses in neighbouring suburbs.

Senior Comanchero Ali Kesici, who was photographed during the recent raids on Comanchero clubhouses, is believed to control two car washes, including EBA Pro Wash on Inkerman Street, St Kilda.
Ali Kesici a senior Comanchero member.

The owner of another Port Melbourne car wash is understood to have been threatened by a senior bikie who wanted to take over or be given equity in his business.

Police have been actively monitoring the ''strong footprint'' bikies have recently made in the state's car wash industry.

It is understood Victoria Police has also been actively lobbying the state government to toughen Victoria's licensing regime to help keep bikies out of legitimate business sectors.

Car washes provide an easy way to launder money because they are largely cash enterprises with easily manipulated revenue streams. ''It is a perfect way to wash dirty money,'' said one law enforcement source. ''You can easily increase the number of cars the business claims to wash and because most payments are in cash, it is hard for police to separate legitimate income from invented revenue that can hide dirty money.''

The former owner of two other car wash businesses in South Yarra and Elsternwick, Hassan ''Sam'' Baker, allegedly made serious threats against a commercial real estate agent who was appointed by administrators to sell his failed businesses.

The altercation took place at the car wash at the beginning of a sales campaign for the businesses.

The Colliers International agent refused to comment, but sources close to the deal confirmed the threats. Mr Baker is an associate of several Bandidos members, including the Zakharia brothers.

Nick Zakharia, a former winner of the Mr Australia bodybuilding competition, was jailed for three years in 1990 after he was caught posting cocaine from the United States, while older brother George was imprisoned for robbery in the 1980s.

Mr Baker's car wash businesses were placed in administration last year with massive debts and purchased by a Sydney-based operator last week.

Fairfax Media can also reveal that bikies' involvement in the construction industry has dramatically increased in the last five years, with several prominent development, plastering, crane, labour hire and traffic management firms now under the effective control of senior bikie figures.

Victoria Police has been pushing the Department of Justice for months to reintroduce licensing laws to govern debt collectors, but the move has been slowed by bureaucratic stalling.

There has also been discussion in several policing agencies about requiring industrial relations ''fixers'' to be licensed and of good character in an attempt to help police combat the lucrative pocket of the construction industry in which bikies and crime figures are paid fees to deal with unions or handle payment disputes involving subcontractors.

Bikies have also been building strong connections inside the construction union. A senior CFMEU organiser has been sighted by the Victoria Police riding with the Rebels outlaw bikie club while another is an associate of the Vigilantes, which has links to the Hells Angels.

Police have identified two building company safety delegates with strong union ties as outlaw bikie associates, including a crane safety representative who used to work for the CFMEU and whose social media profile depicts him in Comancheros paraphernalia.

The union's leadership has banned the wearing of bikie colours on sites and has dismissed suggestions there are any organised relationships between its officials and bikie clubs.

But some building company owners are knowingly employing bikies as muscle and some building firms, including Tullamarine-based Easy Contractors plastering company - which has won contracts on sites controlled by prominent builder the Hickory Group - are aligned with bikie clubs.

The Hickory Group previously employed a union shop steward who was a Rebels ''prospect'', although it is understood he did not become a patched club member.

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News Article written by: 
Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker and Cameron Houston
Source of News article: 
theage.com.au




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