A former bikie who infiltrated the Bandidos motorcycle gang has become Australia’s first known refugee. Steven Utah—not his real name—was awarded asylum in Canada when the country’s Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) found that members of the gang he was reporting on had placed a price on his head.
Utah was acting as an informant on behalf of the Australian Crime Commission (ACC), providing information on a raft of criminal cases involving drug deals, meth labs, and murders as part of a national operation against bikie gangs. His cover was blown in 2006 when the ACC published a media release revealing that they had a source in the Bandidos, ABC News reports.
Within a matter of months, Utah was forced to flee Australia after several members of the gang made an attempt on his life. The IRB concluded that Utah had become a “significant target for the [gang’s] leadership given his depth of knowledge and history with them and his subsequent betrayal”, and that Australian authorities were "either unwilling or unable to provide protection to him at that time".
Utah told the IRB that the ACC removed him from protective custody once he’d been exposed, and that he was led to understand there were no other protective options available to him. He was ultimately awarded asylum by Canada on the basis that he was not being given adequate state protection in Australia. It is understood that this is the first case of an Australian citizen being recognised overseas as a refugee.
Utah has since condemned the Australian authorities for their ineptitude, telling Fairfax in 2007: "I feel total betrayal… Last time I looked, regardless of what anyone thinks of me, I did the right thing and I'm still a citizen of Australia.”
Now, after more than 10 years in hiding, he appears to have accepted his severance from his native home. “I am now not an Australian,” he said. “Protection is questionable at best and it was found there is not and was not any ‘internal flight avenue’ available to me.”
"What was done to me years ago is not the cause of current serving members of policing agencies … nor did the sitting [Federal] Government do this to me. "But the institutions they currently serve most certainly did."