Police are preparing for a major spike in outlaw motorcycle gang related crime with the pending release of an influential prisoner recruited to the Mongols while serving a sentence for two attempted murders.
According to jail sources Mohammad Akbar Keshtier, 43, also known as Afghan Ali, is the acknowledged leader of a gang of Muslim prisoners held in maximum security jails.
"When he was moved to Barwon there were about 50 Muslim inmates waiting to pay homage to him," the source said.
Keshtier is a polite and respectful inmate who wields enormous influence in the powerful clique.
Prison authorities are battling to control a rising jail population where violent criminals are splintering into gangs based on race, religion or common interest. These include Pacific Islanders, Muslims, bikies and the notorious Prisoners of War group.
Detectives say two associates of Keshtier are linked to up to 70 Middle Eastern gangsters living in Melbourne's north western suburbs.
Police profiles show the gang members are usually of Lebanese descent, aged in their late teens or early 20s, are volatile drug users and have virtually unlimited access to firearms.
Some have been linked to a series of commercial burglaries, armed robberies on gaming venues and drive-by shootings.
One key figure in the group has openly declared their plan is to "run Melbourne."
As a response, police have combined the Santiago taskforce that investigates violent gangsters of Middle Eastern descent with the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Echo taskforce to deal with the emerging threat.
The growing influence of Middle Eastern members in the Mongols had led to a change of leadership in Victoria. Police say Keshtier could triple the size of the Mongol gang if he recruited his existing criminal associates.
Keshtier, who was sentenced to 12 years for shooting a man and a woman, is due for release later this month. His second in command, will complete his murder sentence in February.
A third key figure is on remand and facing heroin trafficking charges.
Police say the Mongols and associates are responsible for a series of violent crimes including three recent firebombings connected to St Kilda's Republica Restaurant.
On November 13, days after former Bandido Toby Mitchell was refused entry, Republica and the city office of the security service that blocked him were firebombed. Mitchell is a close friend of senior Mongol members.
The restaurant was repaired and after it reopened Mongol members were refused entry as part of a "no colours" policy.
On December 11 it was firebombed with one offender engulfed in a fireball. Within days the brother of a Mongol member was admitted to an Adelaide hospital with unexplained severe burns. He is expected to be questioned over the second Republica fire.
Last week Mitchell was charged with 17 offences including extortion with threats to kill and assault. He remains in custody.
In November 2011 Mitchell was shot five times outside a Brunswick gym. In March 2013 he was shot twice in Melton.
The man believed responsible for the first attack suffered near fatal injuries when he was stabbed eight times in prison last year in a planned ambush. The offenders are believed to be members of the feared Prisoners of War jail gang , whose leader, Matthew "The General" Johnson murdered drug boss and confessed killer Carl Williams in 2010.
Police intelligence shows there is a growing trend for Asian drug gangs to use bikie groups as national distribution arms as they have established connections into the nightclub pill trade and are unlikely to have been infiltrated by undercover detectives.
Meanwhile senior police say tough anti bikie laws in Queensland and NSW are having a displacement effect with interstate bikie bosses moving to Melbourne.
Recently the WA Rebels gang diverted their run to Victoria because they feared being charged with consorting in NSW.
Senior Victorian police want similar laws where anyone who habitually consorts with offenders convicted of a serious offence, after receiving an official warning, can be jailed for three years or fined $16,500.
They also want stricter controls in industries infiltrated by bikies, including security, heavy haulage, tattoo parlours and debt collecting.