Rebels bikie gang in mass exodus after stoush between national president Damien Vella and WA boss Karl Labrook

Ben Harvey
The Nightly
4 Min Read
UP LATE: In tonight’s show, Ben Harvey reveals the trigger for mass resignations at Australia’s biggest bikie gang.

The nation’s biggest bikie gang is in disarray after one of the largest mass resignations in Australian underworld history.

Three dozen members of the Rebels outlaw motorcycle club have handed in their patches amidst a stoush between the club’s Sydney bosses and chapters in WA.

Senior Perth member Karl Labrook quit the club he joined 25 years ago after his integrity was questioned by national president Damien Vella, according to police sources.

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It is understood the dispute with the Rebels’ east coast hierarchy was the last straw for Labrook, who had been appalled by the lack of support given to members who were jailed during a recent war with the Mongols gang.

Police sources believe forces linked to Vella had demanded they be sent transcripts of Labrook’s recent court appearance over $207,850 found in his car when he was pulled over by police in December 2022.

The 54-year-old was charged with two counts of possessing stolen or unlawfully obtained property. A judge has reserved his decision.

Labrook last month told a court the money belonged to the Rebels. He was carrying it because he had been in charge of the gang’s finances since the assassination of State president Nick Martin.

Martin, who occasionally stepped up as the club’s acting national president and was a towering figure in Australia’s underworld, was shot dead as he watched the drags at the Perth Motorplex in December 2020.

WA Rebels boss Nick Martin was assassinated at Kwinana Motorplex in 2020.
WA Rebels boss Nick Martin was assassinated at Kwinana Motorplex in 2020. Credit: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Labrook, who was Martin’s sergeant-at-arms for more than a decade, told the court that Martin had demanded members pay their monthly dues in cash.

Disquiet emerged when it was suspected the money had gone “missing” or into renovations at Martin’s big house, Labrook said.

“He wasn’t transparent back then, (it was a) bit more of a dictatorship,” he said. “People weren’t happy.”

News reports about Labrook’s testimony raised eyebrows in Sydney and Melbourne because it was seen as a possible breach of the club’s code of honour.

When gang bosses demanded that Labrook send transcripts of his trial east Labrook told them they were welcome to order the publicly available documents and pay the servicing fee like anyone else.

His subsequent decision to hand in his colours triggered the resignations of 36 other members. It is understood many members saw it as an opportunity to jump from a sinking ship after a tumultuous few years.

Martin’s assassination was followed three years later by the jailhouse death of new State president Jamie Ginn.

Ginn’s presidency was derailed by paranoid delusion. He was convinced he was being stalked by hundreds of shadowy government operatives who were watching his every move, using drones the size of small cars and capable of astonishing speeds to track him.

He died from a seizure in the Perth watch house in October 2023 after being arrested over firearms offences.

Ongoing leadership instability and the tit-for-tat battle with the fast-growing Mongols gang had left lifetime WA Rebels disillusioned with senior decision-makers in the east.

Rebels national president Damien Vella and partner outside Penrith Court back in 2022.
Rebels national president Damien Vella and partner outside Penrith Court back in 2022. Credit: News Ltd/News Ltd

Bikies usually forfeit their Harleys when they leave a club but in a rebuke to Sydney the dozens of men who followed Labrook out the door retained their motorcycles.

It is believed there are now as few as a dozen committed, fee-paying members of the Rebels in WA, most of whom belong to the once-powerful South West chapter.

The west coast mutiny is a headache for Vella, 43, who spent 2022 dealing with internal dissent in the Eastern States.

The sudden death of Gino Vella in NSW early that year was followed by the defection to the Comanchero gang by Gino’s son Jesse.

That move triggered fears of a war between the two clubs.

Jamie Ginn’s final months were overshadowed by paranoid delusion.
Jamie Ginn’s final months were overshadowed by paranoid delusion. Credit: The West Australian/The West Australian

Vella was last in the news a year ago when he pleaded guilty to associating with gang members in Adelaide 12 months prior.

He was charged alongside 40-year-old Alex Vella junior, who is the son of exiled Rebels elder statesman Alex Vella.

Vella senior has been living in Malta since his visa was cancelled in 2014.

Three years before the Adelaide charges were laid, Damien Vella was fined by a Sydney court for resisting arrest.

He was pepper sprayed by a police officer from NSW’s anti-bikie Raptor Squad while riding his Harley through Sydney.

The Rebels last month ended a national run with a party at an abandoned dog track in Canberra.

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