Berlin's Biker Gang Problem Convicted World Cup Hooligan Becomes a Hells Angels Leader

One of the five football hooligans responsible for the near-murder of a French policeman in 1998 has been made vice president of the Hells Angels biker gang operating near Berlin. Some locals say it is yet another indication that Germany' biker gangs are getting out of hand.

A former hooligan who nearly beat a French police officer to death at the 1998 World Cup has now become a Hells Angels leader in Germany.
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A former hooligan who nearly beat a French police officer to death at the 1998 World Cup has now become a Hells Angels leader in Germany.

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It doesn't look as though Christopher R.* is at all interested in hiding his past. In fact he has even occasionally considered writing a book about it all.

In 1998, Christopher R. was one of the German football hooligans who attacked French policeman Daniel Nivel at the World Cup in France in 1998, leaving the 43-year-old father of two for dead. Nivel was in a coma for days and, although he survived, he could no longer work, he has trouble speaking and is blind in one eye. Christopher R. was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment for his part in the attack on Nivel. And he has since given up those literary ambitions. "The crime has been dealt with legally and the episode is behind me for good," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

But Christopher R., an electrician by trade, is causing a new stir -- this time with German police -- and it has little to do with his possible memoirs. R. is a member of the Potsdam chapter of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and in a fairly short time he has been elevated to vice president of the group. His name was even put forward to become leader of the group, a meaningful signal directed at the Hells Angels rivals, Gremium MC and the Bandidos. In recent months the German biker gangs -- who like to present themselves as peaceful motorcycle clubs but who investigators say have links to organized crime, paramilitary units and neo-Nazism -- have been feuding, particularly in the state of Brandenburg and in Berlin. Officials in Brandenburg, where Potsdam is located, banned a club aligned with the Bandidos, the Chicanos MC Barnim, in August as part of the "zero tolerance" policy.

Photo Gallery

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Photo Gallery: Biker Gang Turf Wars in Germany
Christopher R. himself wasn't all that enthusiastic about publicizing his new position in the Hells Angels. "No comment," was his reply on the telephone. However a spokesman for the Hells Angels, Rudolf "Django" T., told the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper that, "a member's past is not unimportant. But when he is with us, he puts those times behind him. If we find that a member is acting as he did in the past, then that man is history for us. In the Hells Angels we look at a person's character and not at what is in the police files," he added.

Prior to his prosecution for the assault of Nivel, Christopher R. was well known in the hooligan scene surrounding the eastern Berlin football club FC Dynamo. He is also believed to have been a member of a group of hooligans who took control of the doors at a number of nightclubs in eastern Berlin during the 1990s (the motorcycle gangs had a lot to do with local bouncers and local drug dealers).

'Biker Gangs Slowly But Surely Getting Out Of Hand'

"This is a very serious matter," Sven Petke, the deputy chairman of the Brandenburg state parliament's domestic affairs committee, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The problem with the biker gangs here is slowly but surely getting out of hand. When they fight one another, there can be no more talk of the state holding a monopoly on the use of force." The politician, who belongs to Chancellor Angela Merkel's conseravtive Christian Democratic Union party, has suggested a special commission of investigators from around the state and Berlin. "It is no longer enough simply for them to send one another faxes and e-mails," he said.

Officials at the state office of criminal investigation in Brandenburg appear to be more relaxed about the situation. "At the moment there doesn't seem to be anything particularly extraordinary about the situation," Toralf Reinhardt, a spokesperson for the office, said. "It's been known for a long time that there's a whole row of potentially dangerous characters in the biker gangs. We monitor them very carefully."

It sounds like a pragmatic approach. But is it enough? In Hanover another of the five hooligans who attacked Nivel in Lens, France, has joined the Hells Angels. Markus "Maxe" W. has become one of the highest ranking officers in the gang there and functions as the administrative officer of the biker's club. As such, part of his duties involve looking after the gang's Web site and moderating its forum, in which the gang's admirers perpetuate the bikers' tough image.

Police are also monitoring activity there.

* German privacy laws prohibit SPIEGEL ONLINE from disclosing the last name of the subject of this story.

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