Men tied to Hells Angels go on trial

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The largest narcotics trial in the history of northern Norway got underway in Tromsø this week, with all eight defendants linked to the motorcycle club Hells Angels. Club spokesman Ove Høyland, however, is among the defendants denying any connections to a major drug seizure that prosecutors charge is part of organized narcotics trafficking from Oslo to northern Norway.

Prosecutors have charged the eight defendants under Norway’s so-called “mafia paragraph” that encompasses organized crime. Three of the eight including Høyland are members of Hells Angels, and the five others have alleged ties to the club as well.

Memory trouble
The eight include, in addition to Høyland, seven men born between 1963 and 1988 and living in Oslo, Moss and Larkollen in southern Norway and Bardufoss, Harstad and Tromsdalen in northern Norway. The trial itself is being conducted in Tromsø, believed to be a destination point in drugs transported from Oslo to the Trøndelag and Troms counties.

Prosecutor Hugo Henstein has noted that Høyland, who has presented himself earlier as a spokesman for Hells Angels in Norway, has a central role in the indictment against the men. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that he was among the first to be called when the trial began on Monday, but he had trouble remembering everything from his own history of convictions to his telephone number.

Høyland confirmed he was a member of Hells Angels but said the club had a flat structure and he denied having any leadership role. He did clarify that “hangarounds” and “prospects,” terms used to describe other defendants in the case, are those who want to become members of Hells Angels but are in an initiation period that involves “cleaning the clubhouse and driving us to parties.”

Unhappy with club focus
His defense attorney, Knut Smedsrud, strongly opposed the prosecution’s focus on the motorcycle club itself, saying that while he understood many of the defendants were tied to the club, it was important that the organized crime charges are against the group of eight, not the club itself.

Prosecutors are expected to present evidence from around 24,000 text messages and as many as 35,000 phone conversations that police have monitored over the past two years. They also have seized 9.5 kilos metamphetamines and 20 kilos of hash in the case. The telephone surveillance began in January 2011, after a raid at Høyland’s residence. The raid resulted in the seizures of both drugs and weapons.

On Tuesday, prosecutors presented surveillance photos of what they claimed was a drug delivery carried out at a gasoline station in Nordkjosbotn, south of Tromsø. The 41-year-old member of Hells Angels in Tromsø denied his meeting with the others involved a drug exchange.

Høyland and the others are charged with operating the transport route of drugs from Oslo to northern Norway. They face prison terms ranging from three to 20 years. The trial is expected to last for around six weeks.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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