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Spain court rejects bid to end Hells Angels trial

(AFP)

A Spanish court on Tuesday rejected a plea from a former leader of the Hells Angels to end his trial on the grounds that the charges against him were based on illegal wiretaps.

German national Frank Hanebuth and 48 other suspected members of the US-based biker gang went on trial on Monday over their alleged roles in running a chapter of the club on the Spanish island of Mallorca that was involved in organised crime.

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But late Monday, 34 of the defendants agreed to a plea deal allowing them to pay fines instead of serving jail time — although the agreement still must be ratified by Spain’s National Court.

Hanebuth, suspected of being a top European member of the group, was among the 15 accused who did not seek a deal.

Spanish prosecutors accuse him of founding the Hells Angel chapter in Mallorca and then appointing its members — who are suspected of crimes including pimping, extortion, drug trafficking and acquiring illegal firearms.

His lawyer, Ana Madera Campos, had demanded that the trial be annulled and argued the wiretapping of the suspected members of the gang was authorised without enough evidence.

But the presiding judge, Teresa Palacios, rejected the request, calling it a “drastic solution”.

She added that concerns about the wiretapping would be addressed during the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

Hanebuth has been charged with membership in a criminal organisation, money laundering, uttering threats and illegal firearms possession. 

Prosecutors are seeking a 13 year jail term for him, as well as a fine of 4.2 million euros ($4.6 million).

Hanebuth told the court on Tuesday that he had no working relationship with the other suspects, and only travelled to Mallorca to spend the summer holidays.

One of the defendants who took a plea deal was Hanebuth’s alleged number two, Khalil Youssafi, who was facing a 38-year jail term.

The Hells Angels chapter Hanebuth allegedly headed is believed to have operated in Mallorca between 2009 and 2013, when he was arrested along with 24 other suspects. 

According to the prosecutor’s indictment, prostitution was one of the chapter’s “main sources of income”, with women “coerced” into working at brothels owned by the gang.

Prosecutors suspect the gang laundered its illegal profits by buying real estate in Mallorca and the nearby island of Ibiza.

It was made up of people from across Europe, mainly Germany.

The Hells Angels club was founded in California in 1948. It now has members around the world who are known for favouring Harley-Davidson motorcycles and wearing denim and leather.

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