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Trial of local Hells Angels biker gang kicks off in Spain

Trial of local Hells Angels biker gang kicks off in Spain
By Reuters
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By David Latona

SAN FERNANDO DE HENARES, Spain - The trial of 49 alleged members of a criminal gang linked to the Hells Angels motorcycle club began on Monday at a packed session of Spain's High Court, almost a decade after police clamped down on the group's activities on the resort island of Mallorca.

The defendants face a slew of criminal charges that include extortion, money laundering, drug trafficking, pandering and unlawful possession of firearms.

The prosecution has requested a prison sentence of up to 13 years and a 4.2 million euro ($4.56 million) fine for German national Frank Hanebuth, who rose through the Hells Angels ranks in the German city of Hanover before allegedly leading the crime ring in Mallorca.

Most defendants arrived by foot or cab to the courthouse, with no sign of the distinctive heavyweight cruiser motorbikes the gang is known for.

The proceedings started with a three-hour delay after prosecutors and some defence attorneys engaged in talks to reach last-minute plea agreements.

Hanebuth appeared with a closely shaved scalp, a goatee and a jacket covering tribal tattoos on his forearms. He appeared relaxed as the charges against him were read out.

The Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, which was formed in the United States in 1948 and has some 5,000 members at about 350 branches - dubbed "chapters" - around the world, founded its Mallorca chapter in 2009, according to Spanish authorities.

The gang was lured to Mallorca by the island's geographical location, the existence of brothels and opportunities to engage in money laundering and drug trafficking, the special prosecutor against organised crime said in the indictment.

The presence of a large foreign resident population on the island also facilitated extortion practices, the prosecutor added.

Spanish police clamped down on the Mallorca chapter, which was mostly made up of German and Turkish members, in 2013.

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks but could be extended before a verdict is reached. The ruling is expected to be made public weeks - or even months - later.

($1 = 0.9217 euros)

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