Tuesday 12 December 2017

Irishman pleads guilty to selling horns from endangered rhinos

Press Association

An Irishman linked to a criminal clan had pleaded guilty to charges he used forged documents to sell horns from endangered black rhinos to a New York collector for more than £30,000. (e35,000)

Michael Slattery wept, rubbed his face and waved his arms before entering the plea the Manhattan court, prompting Judge John Gleeson to comment: "You look like a nervous wreck."

Slattery (23) told the judge he barely knows how to read but understood the trafficking charges.

"I knew I was doing wrong," he said.

Asked later by the judge how he was doing in jail, Slattery claimed that one inmate had threatened to "spin my head off," and that he'd overheard conversations about how a murder suspect "wanted me to sleep with him."

Prosecutors have identified Slattery as a member of the Traveller community. They cited a letter from Irish authorities linking him to a criminal network based in the Co Limerick village of Rathkeale that's suspected in dozens of thefts of rhino horns across Europe.

According to Europol, thieves known as the Rathkeale Rovers have targeted museums, galleries, zoos, auction houses, antique dealers and private collections in Britain, continental Europe, the US and South America. It says they were behind a heist this year by masked men who stole stuffed rhinoceros heads containing eight valuable horns from the warehouse of Ireland's National Museum.

Slattery faces a maximum term of about 30 months at sentencing early next year, followed by deportation.

Irish Independent

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