As part of its responsibility to monitor developments in the threat from organised crime and terrorism in Europe, Europol has gathered intelligence and evidence identifying an organised crime group illegally trading stolen rhino horn.
The theft of rhino horn shows how organised criminals are always on the look out for new and creative crime opportunities. The attraction towards rhino horn clearly stems from the high value of this rare commodity. Depending on the size and quality of the specimen, a rhino horn can be worth between 25 000 and 200 000 euros. Rhino horns are used for decoration, to produce luxury products and also used in traditional medicine, despite it being proven ineffective.
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.
As this organised crime group is active in many countries, Europol and the Irish law enforcement authorities have drawn up a series of recommendations, including:
- Dedicated investigations in each country initiated, to determine the scale and nature of the threat associated with these criminals. This would be followed by targeted exchanges of intelligence through Europol, in addition to the ongoing analytical reporting and cross-matching, to reflect the group’s multi-crime dimension,
- Distribution of alert messages to warn potential targets with rhino horn of possible visits to defraud or attack them for their specimens, and to warn the general public and law enforcement authorities of the counterfeit products and other crimes related to these criminals.
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