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Issue:- 9 February  2012

Museum highlights rhino horn smuggling

THE Merseyside Maritime Museum is to highlight the growing illegal trade in rhinoceros horn. The White Rhino is an endangered species, but criminals can make thousands of pounds by removing horns and grinding them down for use in traditional medicines in parts of Asia.

Seized! The Border and Customs uncovered is the National Museum of the UK Border Agency located in the basement of the Merseyside Maritime Museum at Albert Dock.

It will tell the story of a set of horns which were intercepted by Border Agency officers at Manchester Airport.

But in an unusual step, the museum will not be displaying the real rhino horns. It was decided there was too great a risk that a criminal gang could try to steal them and sell them into the lucrative Chinese medicine market.

In the last 12 months there have been more than 20 thefts of rhino horns from museums and auction houses across the UK and Europe. Before Christmas a gang struck at the Museum of Hunting and Nature in Paris and used gas to stun staff before making off with a rhino horn.

The museum has therefore taken the decision to exhibit replicas on gallery.

Karen Bradbury, curator of Seized! The Border and Customs uncovered gallery at Merseyside Maritime Museum said:- "One of the museumís key themes is anti-smuggling and fighting crime. We believe itís important to highlight this growing area of criminal activity. White Rhino is critically endangered and rhino horn has a rising illegal commercial value as itís used in traditional medicines in China and Asia. Itís unusual for a museum to not put something on show. But there are very real fears about the museum becoming a target for criminals. We are therefore heeding advice to not put real horns on gallery."

The new display at the museum will tell the story of how UK Border Agency officers at Manchester Airport foiled a plot to smuggle the horns to China in 2010 after they were found concealed inside a purpose built sculpture.

An intensive investigation revealed the horns had been removed from a rhino called Simba who had died from natural causes at Colchester Zoo.

The Zoo had legally disposed of Simbaís body for cremation to ensure no part of its body could be illegally traded. But the horns were removed and passed to an antique dealer who was caught by the UK Border Agency at the airport and later jailed for 12 months.

Marc Granville of UKBA border crime team said:- "Preventing these horns from being smuggled out of the UK was a major success and an important step in the work of the UK Border Agency in countering this criminal trade which exploits endangered species merely for profit. Had this plot been successful it would have fed demand for rare and exotic animals on the illegal world market and led to the further attempts at unscrupulous exploitation of endangered animals. Given the high price for rhino horns we do not want to risk it being stolen back into the illegal market as we have seen with other rhino horns around Europe. That is why we have taken the unusual decision to keep the horns safely under lock and key rather than being housed in any public display."

Rachael Krueger, Merseyside Police, said:- "Police Forces in the UK are always vigilant of the illegal trade in endangered species. Merseyside Police welcomes this display which brings to public attention this type of crime which is often perpetrated by organised criminals. This display serves as an excellent example of a pro-active investigation. The UK Border Agency is to be congratulated on the recovery of this specimen and the subsequent successful conviction in this case."

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THE UK police capability to tackle the growing threat of cyber crime was strengthened today with the announcement of 3 regional policing e-crime hubs.

The new hubs, in Yorkshire and the Humber, the Northwest and in East Midlands, will be launched at the ACPO e-crime conference in Sheffield today. Cyber crime has been identified in the National Security Risk Assessment as a Ďtier oneí threat alongside international terrorism, an international military crisis, and a major accident or natural hazard requiring a national response.

To meet the threat, the government has granted £30m over four years to improve national capability to investigate and combat cyber crime.

The three new units will work alongside the Metropolitan Police Centre e-crime Unit (PCeU) which was established in October 2008 as part of the National e-Crime Programme.

ACPO lead on e-crime Deputy Assistant Commissioner Janet Williams said:- "The Government has acknowledged a need to collaborate and provide a structured response to the cyber security of the UK and these three additional policing units are going to play a critical role in our ability to combat the threat. It is anticipated the hubs will make a significant contribution to the national harm reduction target of £504m. In the first 6 months of the new funding period alone we have already been able to show a reduction of £140m with our existing capability. While a training period is required before the hubs are fully functional they will undoubtedly provide an enhanced ability to investigate this fast growing area of crime and provide an improved internet investigation capability."

James Brokenshire Minister for Crime and Security said:- "Cyber crime is a threat locally and nationally, and every police force in the country has to deal with its impact on people and businesses in their area. As well as leading the fight in their regions, these units mark a significant step forward in developing a national response to cyber crime, which will be driven by the new National Crime Agency. The government has committed £650million in the fight against e-crime."

Regional e-crime co-ordinator, East Midlands Deputy Chief Constable Peter Goodman said:- "There is no doubt that the proliferation of the internet has brought significant benefits to all across society, but unfortunately that also includes those who have criminal intent. We know that increasingly criminal networks are seeking to exploit cyber space for profit and we have a duty as police leaders to respond to protect individuals and communities."

Assistant Chief Constable Andy Ward of Merseyside Police, chair of the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, said:- "Cyber crime is not restricted by boundaries and its effects are far reaching. The launch of the three hubs, working alongside the Metropolitan Police and our partners, shows our commitment to investigating high-tech crimes including cyber-based terrorism, significant cyber frauds and other serious internet-based criminality. By working together, joining expertise and resources, we are dedicated to gathering and sharing intelligence to ultimately find those responsible for these crimes and bring them to justice."

DCC Mark Whyman, Head of Regional Collaboration, Policing Yorkshire and the Humber said:- "I am delighted that Yorkshire and the Humber has been selected as one of the three national e-crime hubs. This validates even further the collaboration that already exists between the four forces and Police Authorities of the region. I am pleased that we can play a leading role in developing a national capability in this way and, by using our local expertise to tackle what is a rapidly growing crime problem for our communities and the economy, we can yet again place our region at the forefront of policing developments."

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