Irishman held for smuggling of rhino horns

By Conor Feehan

A man who was fined last year for importing €500,000 worth of rhino horns has been arrested in Germany for having a suitcase full of the rare items.

The Herald can today reveal that Michael O'Brien (29), from Rathkeale, Co Limerick, was detained at Frankfurt airport when allegedly trying to sell the horns to some Chinese nationals.

The rare rhino horns are believed by some cultures to be a powerful aphrodisiac and are worth more than their weight in gold on the black market.


O'Brien and the Chinese group are still being held in custody by German police. They were arrested on October 1 and investigations are ongoing.

In March last year, O'Brien and his brother Jeremiah, of Roches Road, in Rathkeale, admitted the illegal importation of the horns worth nearly €500,000 at Shannon Airport on January 18, 2010.

Michael O'Brien pleaded guilty at Ennis District Court to the illegal importation of four rhino horns worth €260,400. His brother, Jeremiah pleaded guilty to illegally importing €231,760 worth of the items. George Mealy, of Mealy Fine Arts in Co Kilkenny, told the court that the rhino horns were worth €60,000 per kilo in today's market but had been worth €20,000 a kilo back in 2010. This meant that the horns the brothers were caught with were worth around €1.5m.

Dermot Twohig, of the Revenue Commissioners, told the court that the horns were found in the O'Briens' luggage after they flew back to Shannon from Faro in Portugal.

Sentencing, Judge Patrick Durcan said that the most important aspect of the case was that the rhino horns were antique.

Judge Durcan fined both accused €500 each.