Irish Syndicate Found Guilty of Plot to Steal Museum Artifacts Worth $79 Million

The Rathkeale Rovers have reportedly been operating in 16 countries.

Fitzwilliam Museum.Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.
Fitzwilliam Museum.
Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.

Four leaders of a crime syndicate were convicted Monday for plotting to steal artifacts from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and other museums in the United Kingdom, which would have netted £57 million ($79 million), Agence France-Presse reports. Ten others linked to the case have already been convicted of the same offense.

The members of the alleged Irish syndicate, identified by the Guardian as John “Kerry” O’Brien Jr, Richard “Kerry” O’Brien, Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, and Michael Hegarty, reportedly belong to a group known as the Rathkeale Rovers. After a two-month hearing at Birmingham crown court, the jury on Monday found the group’s four leaders guilty of plotting a number of raids on museums in the UK and elsewhere.

Authorities link the Rathkeale Rovers, which hales from County Limerick in the mid-west region of Ireland, to similar thefts in auction houses, museums, and private collections across Europe dating back to 2009, the Independent reports. The crime group’s operation reportedly spans 16 countries.

Durham University.<em>Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.

Durham University.
Photo: Courtesy of Google Maps.

According to the AFP, European law enforcement agency Europol “warned about an Irish organised crime group involved in the trafficking of illegal rhino horn” in 2011. It reports that the crime gang intended to ship the looted items to China.

Addressing these deals, Noah Charney, founder of the Association of Research into Crimes against Art, told the Independent that theft on commission is “an exception when dealing with the Far East and China in particular.”

Given the crime group’s elaborate network, Derbyshire chief constable Mick Creedon told the Irish Examiner: “This case starkly demonstrates the level of threat, the lengths criminal gangs will go to and the importance of law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence and working together.”

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