Friday, 26 April 2013

Four rhino heads stolen from museum in Dublin

Rhino horns stolen from museum storage
April 2013. Four rhinoceros heads were stolen from premises of the National Museum of Ireland late in the evening of Wednesday 17 April 2013. A security guard was overpowered by a number of raiders and tied up but has not been injured. He managed to free himself and notify Gardaí who are investigating the robbery.

The stolen rhinoceros heads have a total of eight horns that have probably been taken to supply the illegal trade in powdered horn that is used in traditional medicines in the Far East. Their price is based on weight and the total amount stolen could have a street value in the region of €500,000. 

Not on display
Rhinoceros horns have been taken from rhinos poached in the wild for many years and several species of rhino have been brought to the edge of extinction because of this. In recent years, thieves have turned to museums and private collections that include rhino taxidermy and artworks that include rhino horn. Many museums have taken rhinoceros horn off display as a result. The National Museum of Ireland took the decision to remove all rhinoceros horn from display and the stolen specimens were placed in storage over a year ago. Currently there are no rhinoceros horns on display in the National Museum of Ireland - Natural History. 

Irish gang
The theft of rhino horn shows how organised criminals are always on the lookout for new and creative crime opportunities. Significant players within this area of crime have been identified as an Irish and ethnically-Irish organised criminal group, who are known to use intimidation and violence to achieve their ends. 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, USA 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. 

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