Aussie Hells Angels member arrested over drug haul

Bangkok: Police have arrested an Australian Hells Angels member and bar owner over an attempt to smuggle millions of dollars worth of crystal methamphetamines into a Thai port.

Luke Joshua Cook, 34, was arrested at Bangkok's international airport with his Thai wife only days after a crackdown on other members of the outlawed motor cycle gang in the Thai seaside city of Pattaya.

Police allege that Cook and his wife Kanyarat Wechapitak, 40, bought 500 kilograms of the drug from a Chinese supplier in international waters on June 22.

They allege the couple dropped the drugs into the sea and escaped as their boat was about to be intercepted by a Thai patrol ship off the Thai coast.

Police later found 50 kilograms of the drug washed ashore.

Police Lieutenant General Sommai Kongwisaisuk of the Thai Narcotics Suppression Bureau said Cook was a member of the Hells Angels gang in Pattaya, a city 150 kilometres from Bangkok that is known for its booming sex industry and as a haven for international criminal networks.

Cook, owner of the Piss Stop Bar in Pattaya, was convicted in 2016 of helping Australian kick-boxer and former Sydney businessman Antonio Bagnato flee Thailand after he murdered Wayne Schneider, another Hells Angels member and prominent figure of Sydney's underworld, in 2016.

The naked and mutilated body of Schneider, 37, was found in a shallow grave near Pattaya.

Cook, who drove Bagnato in a private car to the Cambodian border after the killing, was convicted in a Thai court of aiding and abetting a crime and sentenced to three months jail, which was suspended for two years.

A coronial inquest into Schneider's death in Sydney on December 6 heard that Bagnato had been trying to recruit new members for Sydney's Saint Michael Fight Club. With others, he was demanding payment from Schneider before Schneider was kidnapped and bludgeoned to death.

A brief of evidence at the hearing said Bagnato was living above Cook's bar at the time.

After Cook was arrested arriving in Bangkok on a flight from Australia on Sunday, police raided nine properties in Pattaya and Bangkok and seized assets worth millions of dollars, including luxury cars, motor bikes, condominiums and houses.

Last week Thai police detained three Australian and one Canadian Hells Angels members aged between 32 and 42 and raided five luxury properties in a crackdown on the club in Pattaya, where the gang has a bar and a heavily guarded clubhouse.

Guns, ammunition, knives and luxury cars were seized, police said.

Police said the Australians would be deported.

Five other club members were being hunted, they said.

Police Major General Surachet Hakpal told reporters at the time that "some members of the Hells Angels gang have been disguised as tourists and threaten national security, as they were involved in extortion, money laundering, illicit drugs and human trafficking."

"These people entered Thailand, married Thai women, were without regular jobs but had luxury houses and cars and spent lavishly," he said.

Thai police have identified other Australian suspects in Schneider's murder who they believe have fled to Australia.

This story Aussie Hells Angels member arrested over drug haul first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.