Ex-Hells Angels associate’s poor-quality drugs may have sparked demise

Antonio Bagnato when he fought muay thai in Sydney. Photo: You Tube Wayne Schneider’s body was found in a two-metre-deep grave in roadside bushes near a Chinese temple outside Pattaya, Thailand. Photo: Thai PBS English

The late former Hells Angel associate Wayne Schneider. Photo: Ben Rushton

Alleged killer’s link to underground Sydney fight clubAntonio Bagnato ordered death of underworld figure Wayne Schneider: Thai police

A botched drug deal that saw poor-quality drugs handed to an Australian organised crime figure may have been the catalyst for a Sydney underworld figure’s kidnapping and murder in Thailand.

Former kick-boxing champion Antonio Bagnato remains in a Thailand jail charged with the murder of Hells Angels associate Wayne Rodney Schneider in the tourist city of Pattaya last December.

Mr Bagnato, 26, had been employed as Mr Schneider’s bodyguard and the two men were partners in a Sydney fitness centre.

The pair were also both wanted by NSW Police.

Last week, a warrant was issued for Mr Bagnato’s arrest over the shooting death of Bradley Dillon in Leichhardt in 2014.

The former muay thai boxer and member of the secretive Saint Michael Fight Club was believed to have fled to Thailand only days after Mr Dillon was shot dead at close range in front of shoppers outside the Leichhardt Marketplace.

In Thailand he met up with Mr Schneider, who had left Australia years before, when police wanted to speak to him as part of a drug manufacturing investigation.

Fairfax Media understands Mr Schneider had been acting as a broker, or a go-between, for crime figures in Australia wanting to import drugs from Europe.

Despite his earlier association with the Hells Angels, Mr Schneider was tying down deals with crime figures of all backgrounds, including from the rival Comancheros.

He was paid upfront for his services but it is understood the quality of the drugs Mr Schneider had helped source was poor.

Law enforcement sources believe a figure in Australia who was ripped off in a drug deal may have played a part in seeing Mr Schneider kidnapped, bashed and killed in December.

Mr Bagnato was allegedly one of five masked men involved in taking Mr Schneider from his villa to his grave in woodlands a short drive from Pattaya.

GPS on a hire car led police to Mr Schneider’s body.

By then Mr Bagnato had skipped the country and was hiding out in Cambodia.

He was arrested days later, with police alleging he was the ringleader behind the brutal killing.

Police will allege in court that Mr Bagnato hit Mr Schneider several times in the head with brass knuckles, causing severe injuries.

Photographs of Mr Bagnato in handcuffs in front of gun-toting Thai police were a far cry from his days as a fit and promising muay thai boxer in Sydney.

Mr Bagnato hails from the Leichhardt area in Sydney’s inner-west and is the son of a former Italian fisherman and respected business owner.

He moved into the boxing realm and trained with a muay thai gym in the city’s south.

Mr Bagnato was hailed “the next big thing” after winning several fights before he left Australia and fought under the Saint Michael Fight Club banner.

But it was his move towards the drug trade in Sydney that saw him kicked out of the secretive fight club, sources say.

It is alleged in August 2014 he accompanied his cousin, Diego Carbone, and shot dead father-of-two Bradley Dillon in a bustling Leichhardt street.

Forty-eight hours later, Mr Bagnato was on a plane bound for Thailand, where he eventually hooked up with  Mr Schneider.

Mr Schneider patched over from the Lone Wolfs to the Hells Angels when he was living in Sydney and rose through the club ranks to take the city chapter’s presidency in 2006, according to court documents.

But when he became a Thailand-based player in the global drug trade, any club loyalty he held soon disappeared as his customer base expanded.

It is believed Mr Schneider played a role in the $1.5 billion drug haul that police intercepted in Sydney in December 2014.

The bikie associate is part of an emerging trend of expatriate Australians who are helping move tonnes and tonnes of drugs into Australia.

The NSW Crime Commission said it has seen “unprecedented co-operation” by rival bikie gangs who work together to get the illicit substances into the country.

“Previous cultural obstacles to joint ventures apparently dissipated in the face of the huge profit to be made,” the commission’s annual report states.

“Intelligence suggested that these groups co-operated to facilitate large commercial importations of illicit drugs into Australia.”

The death of Mr Schneider, who was one of many players in a large global syndicate, is unlikely to disrupt drug importations.

Law enforcement sources say the likes of former Sydney man Hakan Ayik, an associate of the Comancheros bikie gang, who operates a global drug trafficking network from his native Istanbul, will increase his share of the Australian market.

There has also been no retribution for Mr Schneider’s death, pointing to the relatively minor role he played in the international drug network.

His body was brought back to Sydney this month.

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