Illegal trade : Rhino theft in Offenburg: gang boss behind bars

GERMANY 31 March 2015 – Three years ago in Offenburg (Detmold) valuable rhinoceros horns were stolen from the Ritterhaus Museum http://www.museum-offenburg.de/. Now the police have arrested the alleged mastermind of the internationally active gang.

The intact rhinoceros horn mount sitting on exhibition before the theft. Photo: Ralf Burgmaier
The intact rhinoceros horn mount sitting on exhibition before the theft. Photo: Ralf Burgmaier

The Criminal Investigation Unit of Offenburg and the State Prosecutor in Karlsruhe in cooperation with the District Police Lippe/North Rhine-Westphalia has struck a further blow to an international Irish-British criminal gang. Three years after the spectacular thefts in Offenburg and Pforzheim, a suspected mastermind was arrested by the group of officials from the Police in Detmold, East Westphalia Barntrup last Tuesday.

In February 2012, a multi-member gang struck several times in southwest Germany. The most sensational cases occurred in Offenburg and Pforzheim. Early February 2012, three gang members broke into the urban Jewellery Museum in Pforzheim and stole valuable pieces, including famous jewelled Fabergé eggs worth over €80,000.

The trophy after the theft. Photo: Karl Schlessmann
The trophy after the theft. Photo: Karl Schlessmann

According to a joint press release from police headquarters and prosecutors, on 18 February 2012 four thieves broke into the Offenburg Ritterhaus Museum and stole two rhinoceros horns from a trophy collection. The black market value was estimated at more than €50 000. This Rhino theft was part of a series of robberies and burglaries in natural history collections in Europe. The criminals seized the horn to be sold to East Asia, where rhino powder is used in traditional medicine and receives a very high price.

Rhinoceros horns in the car-trailer

The police received their first success at the end of February 2012, when three of the perpetrators were arrested in Munich. They were sentenced by courts in Offenburg, Pforzheim to undisclosed prison sentences. However, the investigation continued to follow up on references to possible backers and to work out the exact contributions each thief had made to each burglary. The result was that a 46-year-old Irish national became suspected as the mastermind behind the thefts. He is suspected of having organizeRd the various thefts and selling the stolen property. Intensive investigation revealed that the suspect was to travel from Ireland to Germany by car. When he arrived last Tuesday in the Teutoburg forest, Detmold police officials were waiting for him. During the subsequent search of his vehicle and trailer, rhinoceros horns and art objects were found, possibly linked to other burglaries. The detainees are currently sitting Detmold Prison and will soon be transferred to a facility in Baden-Württemberg.

Offenburg rhino 2
The retrieved horns. Police photo.

This article, originally appearing in the newspaper Badische Zeitung, has been excerpted and translated from German. See the original article here: http://www.badische-zeitung.de/offenburg/nashorndiebstahl-in-offenburg-banden-chef-hinter-gittern–102706226.html

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