Alleged German Hells Angels boss goes on trial in Spain

A German went on trial in Spain on Monday for allegedly running a chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang on the holiday island of Mallorca that was involved in prostitution, drug trafficking and other organised crime.

Frank Hanebuth, suspected of being of a top European member of the US-based biker group, is in the dock alongside 46 other suspected members and collaborators.

Wearing blue jeans and a black coat, he sat with his hands in his lap at the court in San Fernando de Henares, near Madrid, as the judge read the charges.

Spanish prosecutors accuse Hanebuth 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.

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.

"Those women were the property of the organisation and had to comply with its rules or face various sorts of sanctions," the indictment said.

The gang allegedly paid for some of them to undergo cosmetic surgery "for the sole purpose of making women 'more productive' and obtaining a bigger profit," it added.

Spanish prosecutors are seeking a 13-year prison sentence for Hanebuth on charges of membership in a criminal organisation, money laundering, making threats and illegal possession of arms, as well as a fine of 4.2 million euros ($4.6 million).

Other suspected members of the gang are charged with drug trafficking and running a prostitution ring, and face up to 38 years.

- 'Threatening and coercing' -

The gang is believed to have operated in Mallorca between 2009 and 2013, when Hanebuth was arrested in Spain along with 24 other suspects in a series of raids.

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

Among the other defendants is Joachim Kirschner, whom prosecutors described as the chapter's "sergeant-at-arms".

His duties allegedly included "threatening and coercing people to defend the business of the organisation and its members," according to the prosecutor's indictment.

They are seeking a five-year prison term for Kirschner.

Another defendant, Paul Engelke, co-owned with Hanebuth a large estate in Mallorca called "Son Paraiso" that is valued at 2.5 million euros.

During a police search of the property, officers seized a sawed-off shotgun and four rifles. Engelke is facing a 14-year prison term.

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

Three Spanish police officers are also on trial for allegedly co-operating with the gang.

- Former boxer -

Hanebuth was released on bail in July 2015 along with his alleged number two, Khalil Youssafi, who also went on trial on Monday. He is facing a 38-year jail term.

A towering former boxer, Hanebuth was the head of a Hells Angels chapter in the German city of Hanover for several years before relocating to Mallorca.

The first day of proceedings began after a three-hour delay as lawyers for some of the defendants and prosecutors tried to reach a last-minute plea bargain. The trial is expected to last several weeks.

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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