SYDNEY - Australia's most populous state is set to declare the Hells Angels a criminal organisation after a string of drive-by shootings believed to be linked to gang violence, a report said Tuesday.
New South Wales has already banned motorcycle gang members, or "bikies", from owning or operating tattoo parlours and barred them from wearing their colours at 58 pubs and other venues in Sydney's red-light area of Kings Cross.
But the state is now set to declare the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club a criminal outfit within three weeks, police sources told The Australian.
Assistant commissioner Mal Lanyon told the paper that police were working on a declaration, but would not specify the club involved or when it would happen.
If made a criminal organisation, police could then seek to ban individuals from the Hells Angels from associating, and jail them for up to five years if they failed to comply.
Wayne Baffsky, a lawyer for the club, said it would challenge any declaration in court.
"Police have acknowledged that it's only a small number of individuals that are involved in the alleged criminal acts but seek to potentially punish members of all clubs with these laws," Baffsky said.
Sydney has been rocked by dozens of drive-by shootings this year.
Homes and tattoo parlours have been sprayed with bullets in what police believe is a dispute between the Hells Angels and another biker gang, the Nomads.
Investigators have been frustrated by the reluctance of many victims to cooperate with them.