By Adelina Campos
US agents are closing in on the gang of Rathkeale Rovers involved in the illegal trade in rhino horns.
Security sources have revealed that arrests of Irish criminals operating in the States are imminent, as investigating officers for the US Fish And Wildlife Service have stepped up efforts to put a stop to the contraband sale of ivory.
Its Deputy Chief of Law Enforcement Edward Grace said that a group of rogue Travellers from Rathkeale, Co Limerick are being targeted by ‘Operation Crash’, an ongoing criminal investigation in the black market rhino horn trade.
He said: “At this point, we have arrested 14 people. We have seven convictions but we also have almost 100 subjects (suspects) involved worldwide in this investigation.
“We’ve been working with the gardai, we’ve been working with Europol, and with the South African national police and others, for this operation”
He revealed: “Rathkeale Rovers are among the suspects. “Our investigation is only at midway point right now. There are still more suspects and there will be more arrests, and more guilty pleas by the end of the year.”
Mr Grace added that there was a “possible” link between the Irish criminals operating in the States, and the 19 members of a Traveller gang who were arrested last Tuesday in Northern Ireland and England during a Europol-led operation.
The 17 men and two women who were caught are believed to be mainly Irish nationals with English addresses.
And gardai from the Criminal Assets Bureau raided solicitors’ offices and properties in Limerick and Cork earlier this week as part of the European-wide investigation.
Mr Grace admitted that the illegal rhino horn trade only became a concern in America after a group of Irish criminals set up a crime ring over there.
In 2010, Richard O’Brien and Michael Hegarty were jailed for six months in Colorado after trying to buy four rhino horns for $17,000 (£12,800).
Agent Grace said: “Our investigation – Operation Crash – started because we began getting information that there were a couple of groups of Irish individuals that had been coming into the United States to buy rhino horn. More....