THIRTEEN members of the criminal gang known as the “Rathkeale Rovers” have been jailed for almost seven years for plotting to steal Rhino horns and museum artefacts.
On Monday, seven of a 14 member traveller gang with connections to Ratheale in County Limerick were jailed at Birmingham Crown Court for their parts in a number of break-ins and plotting to steal the rhino horns with an estimated value of €73 million.
This Monday, Richard Kerry O’Brien, John Cash O’Brien, Danny Flynn, Paul Pammen, Alan Clarke, Daniel Turkey O’Brien and Donald Chi Cheong Wong were sentenced by Judge Murray Creed,
Mr Wong was described in court as a London-based intermediary who would find buyers for the stolen items and made frequent trips to Hong Kong.
Judge Murray Creed heard that although the items stolen in two of the raids were valued at £17 million, police believe buyers would have paid upwards of three times that value on the illegal markets.
The judge said that the plans and the thefts were part of “an extremely sophisticated conspiracy”.
The judge said the operation to “plunder” rhino horn, carved horn and jade items started off on a “small-scale”basis in January 2012 but after initial failures and botched thefts – in one case the burglars forgot where they had hidden their haul – their planning finally paid off.
“It was serious organised crime. This criminal enterprise “involved very high value goods with significant harm caused to victims, both museums and members of the public who would otherwise have viewed the material stolen.
Describing it as a sophisticated enterprise that was both “skilled and persistent,” the judge said that it had spanned England, Scotland and Ireland adding that members of the O’Brien family, based in Rathkeale, had been at the heart of that conspiracy.
Richard “Kerry” O’Brien Jr, (31), of Cambridgeshire and also of Rathkeale, was jailed for five-and-a-half years.
John “Cash” O’Brien, (68), of Fifth Avenue in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands was jailed for five years and three months.
Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, 45, Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire was jailed for six years and eight months.
Daniel Flynn,45, and also of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, was jailed for four years despite the judge saying he played a lead role in the enterprise. However his sentence was reduced based on “the fragility of his mental health”.
Donald Wong, (56) with an address in London was described by the judge as “a buyer, seller and valuer” and was jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Paul Pammen, (49), of Alton Gardens in Southend-on-Sea and Alan Clarke, (37) of Melbourne Road in Newham, London, were both jailed for five-and-a-half years each.
John “Kerry” O’Brien, (26), of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire – but also of Rathkeale, Co Limerick, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Terrence McNamara, of Marquis Street in Belfast, was jailed for four years.
Michael Hegarty (43), also of Orchard Drive in Cottenham, and Rathkeale, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Richard Sheridan, (47) of Water Lane in Smithy Fen, was jailed for five and half years.
Patrick Clarke, aged 34, of Melbourne Road, Newham, London, was also jailed for five-and-a-half
Ashley Dad, (35), of Crowther Road in Wolverhampton, was jailed for five years and three months.
The group’s targets included Durham University Oriental Museum, the Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk, a robbery at Gorringe’s Auction House in East Sussex and a burglary at Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
A 14th man had already been convicted and sentenced for his part in the crime, last year.
There is high demand for rhino horns in China, where they are used in highly controversial preparations of traditional Chinese medicine.
In recent years, prices of drinking cups made of sculpted rhinoceros horns also have soared in the Chinese art market.