Friday, 9 August 2013

Irish man to be extradited to Austria over rhino horn thefts

Irish gang were targeting European museums 
August 2013. THE Irish high court has ordered that a man suspected of stealing rhino horns from museums, auctions and shops across Europe should be extradited to Austria to face trial.

The man, John Quilligan from Rathkeale, is thought to be part of a gang that targeted rhino horns across Europe. 

Europol have been investigating links between an Irish gang and rhino horn smuggling for at least 2 years. The investigation was launched after a spate of robberies around Europe where rhino horns were stolen from museums and antique dealers. The gang members are almost all from the town Rathkeale, just south west of Limerick, in Ireland.

Europol stated "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."

Arrested in Switzerland
Two members of the gang were also arrested in Switzerland in 2012 in possession of counterfeit cash totalling 120,000 Euros, and they are also thought to have been under investigation in the USA in connection with the smuggling of rhino horns.

The judge refused Quilligan's bail. A European Arrest Warrant was issued in Vienna last January for his surrender.

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