Police are bracing for a possible power struggle inside Australia's biggest bikie gang after the Rebels' national president Alex Vella was banned from re-entering Australia.
Immigration Minister Scott Morrison confirmed yesterday that he had cancelled Mr Vella's visa on character grounds, leaving the Maltese-born bikie isolated from his family and the fortune he is believed to have amassed during his 30 years as leader of the club.
Mr Vella has been a regular visitor to Perth during his reign, most recently leading hundreds of his members across the border into WA as part of a national run last September.
Police sources told The West Australian last night they were monitoring the fallout from the ban, with fears the club could splinter and possibly end up at war with itself.
It is understood tensions were already high between some Eastern States chapters, unhappy with the way the gang was being run.
The Rebels are WA's biggest gang, with about 150 members and nominees. Nationally, they number between 1200 and 1500.
It is believed Mr Vella is currently in Malta attending an international gathering of Rebels leaders. The 60-year-old has lived in Australia for more than 40 years and though his family are Australian citizens, he had not taken out citizenship.
It is not the first time Mr Vella has run into trouble over his immigration status.
He was stuck in Japan for several weeks in 2007 after his residency return visa had expired and he was forced to renew it.
Police reportedly at the time were pushing for immigration officials not to grant him a new one because he was of bad character.
Mr Vella has long been on the radar of law enforcement agencies but has a relatively clean record.
For the past two years, a national task force made up of State and Federal law enforcement agencies has been targeting the gang.