Father of rhino horn smuggler claims garda harassment

A Rathkeale Traveller whose son was jailed in the United States for smuggling rhino horns has alleged that he and his family are being harassed by gardai.

A Rathkeale Traveller whose son was jailed in the United States for smuggling rhino horns has alleged that he and his family are being harassed by gardai.

Richard Kerry O’Brien has created a Wordpress blog to outline his allegations, including one relating to a raid on his home in Rathkeale by the Criminal Assets Bureau last September.

He claims that, on September 10 2013, at 4.45am, his wife Christina was awoken by “loud banging and shouting outside”.

“Men in dark clothing, with balaclavas and carrying guns screamed at her to let them in, claiming to be gardaí.

“As a victim of a previous robbery, Christina was always extremely fearful that it might happen again. She became suspicious at the sound of Dublin accents and attempted to phone the local gardaí but at that point, the men outside broke the door down and ordered Christina, our daughter Kathleen and the four children to the floor,” alleged Mr O’Brien.

He goes on to claim that his wife and children had been kept in a room for four hours which a garda team of 14 men searched the house removing a computer, documents, a watch, money and “a worthless picture which they described to the media as artwork”.

In a letter posted on the blog Fr Phonsie Cullinan, the parish priest of Rathkeale, described the incident as a “raid”.

“I use the word raid as I think it best describes the invasion of 14 men into a house occupied by two women and four children at approximately 4.30am. It was described to me that three of the CAB party were heavily armed in full riot gear with balaclavas and used shocking and violent language and actions which left the family, especially Kathleen, in a state of severe trauma.

“Mrs O’Brien had been shouted at at gunpoint to ‘get down or we will shoot you’. I believe their story.

“Such methods are totally out of order and whatever case the CAB may have against an individual, such treatment of women and children is absolutely appalling,” the letter went on.

Fr Cullinan concluded by writing: “I hope the O’Brien family will receive justice and fair treatment which is the right of every human being and every citizen of this country.”

Responding to questions about these allegations, the garda press office said: “It is not the policy of An Garda Síochána to comment on allegations regarding named individuals or indeed third-party sources.”

In his blog, Mr O’Brien describes himself as a “successful businessman” who was the largest distributor of cast iron fireplaces in Ireland during the building boom.

He also refers to the arrest of his son Richard O’Brien Jr in the United States while attempting to buy a rhino horn as part of what he describes as an FBI “sting” operation. O’Brien Jr was jailed for six months as a result.

“He received many emails offering him a rhino horn and he agreed to travel to the United States to meet the person selling it. If he had asked my opinion, I would have told him not to touch rhino horns for any reason, but he did not and he suffered the consequences. His decision to get involved with this scam was very foolish,” said Mr O’Brien of his son’s actions.

“Richard Jr met a man in Colorado who offered him a rhino horn and when he agreed to buy it, he was arrested. On legal advice, he pleaded guilty rather than face the prospect of enormous costs in the American system and a lengthy prison sentence.”

Mr O’Brien says he does not condone the trade in rhino horn. “The gardaí ... decided that, because I have the same name as my son, and because I travel extensively throughout the world, I must be the man behind this evil trade.” He also refers to a raid on his home in 2008 by a “Dublin criminal gang” which he alleges was not adequately investigated by gardai.

“I make no secret of the fact that certain members of my family have transgressed in the past, but I personally have never had any involvement whatsoever with the gardaí, apart from the occasions when they have chosen to harass me. I have set up this website to put the record straight, to clear my name and to document any future instances of harassment against me,” he writes.

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