Former bikie deported from New Zealand 'cut ties to Rebels in 2009'

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Australian with no criminal history handcuffed and flown home because federal police intelligence tied him to gang he left seven years earlier after ‘nightmare’ of intimidation

A truck driver and his family say their first overseas trip led to his “unjustified” arrest and deportation because Australian federal police intelligence tied him to a bikie gang he left in harrowing circumstances seven years earlier.

David Paul, who travelled with his family to New Zealand to watch a rugby tournament in February, was handcuffed on arrival, held in a cell then flown home.

Paul has no criminal history but was refused entry to New Zealand because of AFP advice he was a member of the Rebels motorcycle club, immigration and police officers in Auckland told the family.



A member of the Rebels

David Paul has no criminal history but was refused entry to New Zealand because of Australian federal police advice he was a member of the Rebels motorcycle club, immigration and police officers in Auckland told the family. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

But Paul and his ex-wife, Laura, insist that he severed ties with the Rebels amid threats to his family in 2009, describing his year-long stint across several New South Wales chapters as a “nightmare” of personal intimidation and financial exploitation.

The couple, whom Guardian Australia has identified using aliases, alleged clubmates held a gun to Paul’s head in front of his children when he resisted joining, and later “milked” him of almost $400,000 from a personal injury payout.

Later, when Paul made final moves to quit the club, they said, the family’s small business was destroyed by arson and they were threatened, forcing them into hiding.

His deportation from New Zealand seven years later raises questions about the currency of AFP intelligence that is shared overseas and its lasting restrictions on people no longer in gangs.

“I’ve been looking over my shoulder all these years getting away from the club and now I find out I’m still on the AFP’s books as a member,” Paul said. “You think about some of the mistakes you make. I’ve never had one come back and bite me like this.”

Laura said his arrest in front of their teenage son and deportation were “upsetting and unjustified”. “We are in an ‘interesting’ position, which means we are caught in the middle of two extremes,” she said.

“He is still considered a ‘bikie’ after seven years by the police, yet [was only] able to ‘leave’ the club under extremely scary circumstances. The fact that the government said if people left the club they could move forward with their lives is just not true. We don’t know what action we can take to fix this as we are obviously not alone.”

The couple said they did not report the threats to their family to police out of fear of reprisals but assumed the NSW gang squad had recorded Paul’s departure from the Rebels.

They were unaware his details had been shared with the AFP, and later NZ immigration, under a far-reaching initiative overseen by the immigration minister and former Queensland police officer Peter Dutton.

There is no formal mechanism in NSW for people to declare their dissociation from a club. Former bikies can do so in Queensland under a system introduced by police after several supreme court judges made scathing criticisms of the use of intelligence on past membership to justify harsh prison and bail conditions. A Queensland government review has found separately identifying criminals and non-criminals in bikie gangs is “difficult” and “complex”.

Guardian Australia revealed in December that NZ had begun refusing entry to Australian bikies without criminal records.

Paul was refused entry under the same section of NZ immigration law, on the grounds he was likely to commit an offence leading to jail time, or be a threat or risk to security, public order or the public interest.

A national police certificate, seen by Guardian Australia, shows Paul has no criminal record in Australia.

The AFP refused to comment on Paul’s case or whether it independently sought to verify his gang membership before sharing the information with NZ immigration. It refused to say how people could demonstrate they had quit gangs, or whether it would continue to share or update intelligence on past members with foreign agencies.

A spokeswoman said it and “law enforcement partners in Australia act appropriately and in accordance with Australian and international policies and guidelines regarding the provision of information to foreign jurisdictions”.

Senior police sources said the AFP typically relied on state police intelligence on bikies.

Guardian Australia asked the NSW police gangs squad what steps it took to ensure its intelligence was current before it shared information with the AFP. It refused to comment.


Everyone assumes they get their money from drug sales, whereas I think a huge percentage of it is just milking people

Laura, ex-wife


Laura said she believed her husband was targeted for recruitment by the Rebels because of his payout from a truck accident that left him “lonely and ill” and with a brain injury that impaired his judgment.

He had resisted pressure to join the club until a 2006 visit by six Rebels who held a gun to his head in front of his two children and stole his motorbike, she said.

An on-again, off-again stint with the club led him to hand over money for clubhouse renovations, flights and accommodation for interstate club rides, and a tattoo parlour he held in name only, she said. A senior club figure, who eventually gave Paul permission to leave, took $50,000 in loans that were never repaid.

Laura said she was “stunned” to learn all his payout money had been drained by Christmas 2009, including $300,000 to the Rebels over just six months.

“Everyone assumes they get their money from drug sales, whereas I think a huge percentage of it is just milking people,” she said. “They really do target people and I knew a few because someone had died in the family or whatever. All the wives go, ‘Where’s the money gone?’”

Paul said: “I got conned pretty hard, I’ll admit that. I did what I could and got away, but there was a few people that had their claws into you and they don’t like letting them out.”

He said when the business was destroyed by fire just before he quit, a police officer at the scene told him it was “a vandal attack”, adding, “It must suck to be a bikie.”

Laura said she had continued to receive threats after changing her address and phone number. “I had a couple over the phone and a couple of knocks on the door,” she said.

“It was pretty horrendous – ‘I know where you are and there’s going to be big repercussions for you and your family.’

“Probably a year later I got a phone call from one of them saying, ‘You thought you could get away with me not getting your phone number?’”

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