Irish National Gets 14 Months for Trafficking Rhino Horn

(CN) – An Irish national who smuggled a cup made of rhinoceros horn out of the United States was sentenced Tuesday to 14 months in prison by a federal judge in Miami.

(AP Photo/Anupam Nath)

Following his extradition in August, Richard Sheridan pleaded guilty in Miami federal court after being hit with a trafficking conspiracy indictment filed nearly five years earlier in the same district.

Sheridan, a 50-year-old Irish national who hails from Cottenham, Cambridge in the United Kingdom, purchased a libation cup made from the horn of a protected rhinoceros in 2012 at an auction house in Rockingham, North Carolina, and smuggled the cup out of the U.S. Prosecutors say he was planning to sell it on the black market.

In addition to 14 months in prison, U.S. District Judge Jose Martinez also sentenced Sheridan to two years of supervised release.

“For our critically endangered wildlife, every case that serves to deter their illegal poaching and trafficking in their artifacts is important to the global effort to preserve these iconic specimens for our children and the generations to come. Only through the continued, collective efforts of the international community will the goal of preserving species under threat of extinction be realized,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said in a statement Tuesday.

Michael Hegarty, also an Irish national, was indicted alongside Sheridan in 2014. He was sentenced in 2017 to 18 months in prison plus three years of supervised release.

In traditional Chinese medicine, powdered rhinoceros horn is considered a medical treatment for a variety of ailments, including problems with the liver. In other nations, like Vietnam, it has been touted as a cure-all for cancer though there is no scientific evidence to back up the claim.

Last October, the Chinese government announced it had legalized the use of rhino horn for medicinal purposes but international backlash from conservationists and environmentalists alike prompted the government to revisit its decision. Within a month, Beijing announced it would postpone the ban’s reversal until further studies were completed.

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