Rhino horns worth more than €1.5m will be incinerated by the Revenue Commissioners.
Revenue have confirmed their plans to destroy the eight rhino horns, despite footing the bill for keeping them in a high-security location for the past six years.
The revelation comes after a gang of Irish Travellers, with links to a worldwide criminal network, were found guilty in Britain of a multi-million-euro rhino-horn heist and stealing priceless Chinese artefacts. Rhino horns are highly prized in Southeast Asia, where they are falsely believed to have the ability to cure cancer and enhance virility.
This has led to their value increasing on the black market – they are worth more than their weight in gold, even though their chemical composition is not much different than a horse’s hoof.
Rhino horn trading is illegal, but lucrative. A horn can fetch up to €200,000 on the black market. The value could be higher in Vietnam, where horns are used for medical purposes and as an aphrodisiac.
The National Museum of Ireland removed all rhinoceros horns from exhibition (inset), due to concerns about thieves.
The eight horns in the care of the Revenue were confiscated at Shannon Airport in 2010 following an anti-smuggling operation. At the time, their value was €492,000 – but their black market value has soared since then.
Poaching to feed the illicit trade has further endangered a species that is already under extreme pressure from loss of habitat and armed conflict.
Revenue have made various attempts to offload the rhino horns over the years. They were offered to the National Museum of Ireland – but the National History division refused to put them on display because of the risk they would attract criminal gangs.
In September 2014, the museum authorities wrote to Revenue, suggesting the “destruction” of the horns and to make this known to the public, so as to deter their sale on the black market.
A Revenue spokeswoman said that the cost of storing them in secret for the past six years had been “minimal”.