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Rhino horns seized by Europol Photo by: Europol

Irish traveler charged over New York rhino horn sale

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Rhino horns seized by Europol Photo by: Europol

An Irish man has been charged over his alleged role in an international rhinoceros horn smuggling ring.

A Brooklyn judge ordered Michael Slattery to be held without bail Wednesday following his arrest over the weekend at New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport while boarding a flight to London.

The arrest and charge is a result of “Operation Crash,” a nationwide effort led by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the Justice Department.

An Irish traveler, Slattery Jr fraudulently purchased a set of black rhinoceros horns in Texas before travelling to New York where he sold the horns for $50,000, using falsified documents.

According to the complaint filed on September 14, 2013, in 2010 Slattery traveled from London to Texas to acquire black rhinoceros horns.

Slattery, a member of The Rathkeale Rovers, and his accomplices then used a day laborer with a Texas driver’s licence as a straw buyer for the two horns from an auction house in Austin.

They gave the straw buyer $18,000 in $100 bills to complete the deal.

The group then traveled to New York where they presented a fraudulent Endangered Species Bill of Sale and sold the two pairs of horns for $50,000 to a Chinese buyer in Queens.

Three of the five species of rhinoceros in Africa and South Asia have been hunted to the verge of extinction.

In 2011 Europol issued a warning that an Irish criminal network based in the Limerick village of Rathkeale was responsible for dozens of thefts of rhino horns across Europe.

The thieves, known as the The Rathkeale Rovers, were involved in several raids on museums in Europe where rhinoceros horns have been stolen.

In April rhino heads were stolen from a National Museum of Ireland warehouse in Dublin.

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