Monday 19 February 2018

Revenue may destroy €2m rhino horns amid security fears

Rhino horns are highly prized by criminal gangs for sale on the black market
Rhino horns are highly prized by criminal gangs for sale on the black market
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

REVENUE officials may destroy eight 'aphrodisiac' rhino tusks – worth nearly €2m – despite footing the bill to keep them in a high-security hideaway for the past four years.

The rhino horns have been in Revenue custody since they were confiscated in an anti-smuggling sting at Shannon Airport in January 2010.

At the time of the discovery, the combined value of the horns was €492,160. But antiques experts now say their black market value has soared in the past four years and now put their worth at €1.96m.

This makes them a particularly high security risk if they are given to a museum or similar institution.

International criminal gangs now operate a lucrative trade in rhino tusks in Asia where they are widely regarded as an aphrodisiac.

Rhino horn is currently more valuable than gold or platinum in some parts of the world, according to a recent report.

A Revenue Commissioners spokeswoman told the Irish Independent she could not say if it was planned to donate the tusks to a museum either in Ireland or overseas.

It had been suggested by Co Clare councillors that the horns – given that they were confiscated in nearby Shannon – could be given to the museum in Ennis.

But this is not considered a feasible option because of their high value. If such a proposal was to go ahead, it would involve major costs for a relatively small museum.

A key headache for the authorities in trying to dispose of the horns is that dealing in this substance is illegal worldwide because of the threat to the rhinoceros population.

However, the spokeswoman refused to rule out the possibility of Revenue destroying the horns in order to finally rid themselves of the cost of storing the haul.

There is no specific time limit on the disposal of goods forfeited to the State, and in theory the rhino horns could remain in storage for years.

Crime syndicates in various countries have been attracted by the huge money to be made killing these huge creatures on their African grasslands and then shipping illicit, small volume consignments of their tusks overseas.

The retail price of rhino horn has soared, from $4,700 (€3,432) per kilogram in 1993, to around $65,000 (€47,467) in 2012. Vietnam has become the major market for powdered rhino horn, while in China the wealthy value it for medicinal purposes.

It is believed to cure a number of illnesses and ailments, including poisoning, hallucinations, typhoid, carbuncles, cancer, fever and boils.

But the belief in its supposed medicinal benefits is not rooted in reality. "You would get the same effect from chewing your own fingernails," said a report in the 'National Geographic'.

Irish Independent

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