The months long investigation into the gang came to a dramatic conclusion early in the morning on March 22nd when the homes of the suspects were stormed and they were arrested.
The defendants – who all deny the accusations – include seven men and one woman aged between 23 and 38-years-old.
They are accused of threatening to hurt the owners of several bars and one mobile phone shop in Vienna unless they hired the gang members as bouncers of their establishments, paying them a salary that went into the gang’s coffers.
The new ‘security guards’ were paid a hundreds of euros for the ‘protection’ and in some cases between €10,000 and €100,000, according to the head of the office for organised crime Andreas Holzer. Demands were even made from one victim for €1.5 million.
The gang, who mainly targeted businesses on Ottakringer Straße and Märzstraße, reportedly spent the money on fancy cars, luxury items and expensive clothing brands.
Some business owners were so intimidated they sold their bars rather than have to deal with the criminals. Others had their cars set on fire and received notes saying “next time, your house will burn”.
The extortion scheme is thought to have been operating since 2013 but only came to the police’s attention in Autumn 2015 when a group of business owners rallied together to file a joint complaint.
Authorities believe the alleged main suspect – 37-year-old Edin D. – may also be connected to the shooting dead of a customer in the Cafe Cappuccino in Ottakringer Straße in 2006, which became known as the 'Cappuccino murder'.
Authorities are calling for anyone who thinks they may be a victim of the gang to contact the Federal Office of Crime (01/24836 985025) with details. A witness protection programme is available.