Irish Involvement in Global Wildlife Trafficking Rackets

Black rhinoceros horns seized by Europol

December / January 2014

Though the crime happened three years ago, the first week of November saw Limerick native Michael Slattery, Jr. (23) plead guilty to the charge of wildlife trafficking at a Brooklyn District Court. In 2010, two Irish men gave a homeless man an envelope with $18,000 in cash in it and instructed him to purchase the head of a rhinoceros at a taxidermy auction in Austin, Texas. The man obliged, purchased the head, and brought it out to the parking lot where the Irish men sawed off the horns. A few weeks later, the horns were packed up with forged bills of sale and driven to Queens, NY, where they were sold for $50,000. From Flushing, the horns entered a world-wide trafficking ring that spreads from Rathkeale to Saigon, where rhinoceros horns can go for more than $5,000 per pound because they are thought to have restorative and curative powers.

Slattery, a presumed member of the criminal organization the Rathkeale Rovers, faces a minimum two-year sentence. The arrest for this three-year-old crime highlights the growing involvement of Irish organized crime syndicates like the Rovers, who have been targeted by Europol for stealing rhinoceros horns from art galleries, museums, and even zoos, according to the New York Times.

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