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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Stolen Art Watch, Irish Pink Panthers Strike Again & Again & Again !!

Irish gang linked to rhino horn trade

The European policing agency Europol has said an Irish crime gang is a key player in the illegal trade in rhino horns globally.

The gang is based in Ireland but has contacts around the world and is active in countries as far apart as China and Australia. It is made up of Irish criminals and foreign gang members living here.

The gang has been stealing rhino horns, which fetch up to €200,000 each, from museums, zoos, antique dealers, private collectors and art galleries.

Some of the thefts have involved gang robberies in which the victims were threatened with weapons.

After the horns have been stolen they have been smuggled across world borders and sold in auction houses in the UK, France, USA and China.

Europol and the Garda believe the Irish-based gang with international reach have also been active in a large range of crime types including: drug trafficking, money laundering, armed robbery and the production of false documents.

Security bulletins have been sent by Europol to international police forces alerting them to the gang’s activities and urging them to warn those who may have rhino horns to be aware of the crime syndicate.

Irish gang illegal rhino trade uncovered by Europol

Europol has gathered intelligence and evidence identifying an organised crime group illegally trading in stolen rhino horn.

The attraction towards rhino horn is said to stem from the high value of what is now a rare commodity on the black market. Depending on the size and quality, a rhino horn can be worth between €25,000 and €200,000. The horns are used for decoration, to produce luxury products and also in traditional medicine - despite it being proven ineffective. A spokesman for Europol said that the thefts showed that "organised criminals are always on the look out for new and creative crime opportunities".

Identifying Irish gangs as significant players in the illegal trade in rhino horns, Europol warned that the criminals were "known to use intimidation and violence to achieve their ends". The spokesman added: "To source and acquire rhino horns - the group has targeted antique dealers, auction houses, art galleries, museums, private collections and zoos, resorting to theft and aggravated burglary where necessary. To sell specimens, they have exploited international auction houses in the UK, France, the US and China.

"Elements of this group are also involved in a variety of other serious crimes across the European Union such as drugs trafficking, organised robbery, distribution of counterfeit products, tarmac fraud and money laundering. Outside the EU, they have been active in North and South America, South Africa, China and Australia."

Working with the Irish law enforcement authorities, Europol has drawn up a series of measures to tackle the cross-border criminal operation - including dedicated investigations in each country implicated in the supply chain to determine the scale and nature of the threat associated with these criminals, targeted exchanges of intelligence through Europol and ongoing analytical reporting and cross-matching "to reflect the group's multi-crime dimension".

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