The winged skull motif isn't likely to become a fashion trend, and that's just the way the Hells Angels like it.
Not only are non-members forbidden to wear the motorcycle club's infamous death-head logo, but a Toronto courtroom heard yesterday that any item bearing that image belongs to the Hells Angels Corporation.
The case, which appears to be the first of its kind in Canada, will test forfeiture law and what constitutes offence-related property.
Ryan Naimark, the lawyer representing the California-based corporation, argued yesterday for an application to have death head-emblazoned items that were seized during a police investigation in 2006 returned to the Hells Angels. He said that the items are his client's property because members are asked to sign a property agreement.
"The owners agree that anything they put the patch on belongs to the corporation," Mr. Naimark told Madam Justice Gladys Pardu.
Crown attorney Tom Andreopoulos said that the items, which include everything from jackets and jewellery to a cuckoo clock, are offence-related and should be forfeited.
They were seized in the culmination of Project Tandem, an 18-month police investigation involving a biker-turned-police agent. Roughly $3-million worth of drugs were seized and 26 people were arrested, including 15 members of the Hells Angels, mostly from the Niagara and Simcoe County chapters.
Rick Ciarniello, a director of the Hells Angels Corporation and president of the Vancouver chapter, testified on Monday about the club rules that govern members.
"Let me put it this way: When I became a Hells Angel, I knew that the items that I was using, the death head and such, did not belong to me," he told the courtroom, which was attended by several middle-aged men with thick, tattooed limbs.
Mr. Naimark argued that the seized items not only weren't owned by Hells Angels members, but "there's no evidence that the patches were used in relation to any offence."
Mr. Andreopoulos disagreed with his distinction between the corporation and the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, which was ruled a criminal organization by another judge last year in the trials of some of the men arrested during Project Tandem.
"It's like saying that corporate headquarters for Tim Hortons has nothing to do with all the coffees that are sold throughout Canada because they're not mixing the coffees," Mr. Andreopoulos said.
Madam Justice Pardu said she would reserve her decision and deliver it to the lawyers for the concerned parties at a later date.