An Irish gang called “Rathkeale Rovers”
Suspicions of ivory trafficking begin with the arrest of three Irishmen, on a national road, in New Aquitaine, in central western France, on the night of September 10 to 11, 2015. They are checked by customs officials , in possession of four African elephant tusks in raw ivory. Total weight: 42.6 kg. The “travelers” do not present any intra-community certificate or regular document to customs officers, who also discover € 32,800 in cash. These Irish belong to a group of delinquents called “Rathkeale Rovers”. Bringing together members of the Irish Traveler community, this group engages in criminal activity abroad, in particular trafficking in protected species (rhino horn, ivory). They are subject to international police surveillance. Thanks to telephone tapping, Irish travelers were arrested again, a year later, on November 15, 2016, in a hotel room in the Oise. Investigators found a rhino horn weighing about 14.7 kg there and seized € 3,600 in cash.
The business manager and the restaurant’s “boss”
Two sectors were dismantled, which were based on the supply of raw elephant tusks and rhino horns, outside the regular French market. Chinese and Vietnamese are suspected of participating in this trafficking in protected species. The “Franco-Vietnamese” sector would be organized around a business leader from Hanoi, Vietnam, and having warehouses in Blanc-Mesnil (Seine-Saint-Denis). It is designated as “Certainly one of the biggest buyers of raw tusks on the French market”, according to investigators. Assures him to be a collector, in a private capacity.
A second channel, “Franco-Chinese”, puts the Irish of the “Rathkeale Rovers” organization in touch with a Chinese restaurateur established in Creil, who processed raw material from rhino horn, on behalf of several sponsors, before their export. to Asia.
Rhinoceros horn is highly prized in China and Vietnam, which is the country that consumes the most. On the black market, it sells for more than gold or cocaine. € 55,000 per kilo, minimum (against € 35,000 for cocaine or gold). Elephant ivory sells for between € 600 and € 800 per kilo. In Vietnam, the belief is that the keratin they contain has therapeutic virtues against cancer and boosts libido. According to the NGO WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature), “Vietnam has become a hotspot for consumption of rhino horns, but also a platform for the transit of horns to China”. Ivory is also highly sought after: in China, it is considered the symbol of high social status.
Trial in Rennes in September
Eight defendants will appear, from September 6 to 8, 2021, before the Jirs (specialized interregional jurisdiction) of Rennes. These are the three members of the Irish community of Travelers, three Chinese and two Vietnamese, living in France at the time of their arrest. Six of them are under judicial supervision, the other two are currently wanted. An arrest warrant has been issued for them. They are prosecuted in particular for “unauthorized possession or transport in an organized group, of an animal of a non-domesticated species or its products”, and also for the export of these products. They are also accused of participating in a criminal association. They face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The Robin des Bois environmental association is a civil party.