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EXCLUSIVE: Former Dale Farm spokesman must be extradited to US over rhino horn charges says Sajid Ja

APPEAL: Sheridan (left) with Corin and Vanessa Redgrave (EN&I)

THE former leader of the Dale Farm travellers, who was backed by actress Vanessa Redgrave, is facing a different sort of High Court battle after Home Secretary Sajid Javid ordered his extradition to the US. Sheridan, 50, is wanted across the Atlantic to face trial in connection with the smuggling of a cup made out of rhino horn out of the country. The traveller campaigner spoke for scores of families facing eviction from the huge illegal traveller site during a decade-long planning battle with Basildon Council. He was often the face of the site at the High Court in London as lawyers argued against the eviction. But, Sheridan is now appealing to the High Court to overturn Mr Javid's decision to extradite him to answer charges of trading in protected rhino horns, amid claims it would breach his human rights.

HUMAN RIGHTS: Richard Sheridan is appealing the decision of Home Secretary Sajid Javid (YouTube)

Mr Javid backed a judgement by District Judge Margot Coleman made at Westminster Magistrates Court in January. The court heard Sheridan, who moved from Dale Farm to the Smithy Fen site in Cottenham, near Cambridge, was arrested on a US arrest warrant last year. US authorities want him extradited to face charges in connection with a smuggling conspiracy involving a relative. The alleged offence is "conspiracy to traffic in protected wildlife." It reads: "On or about November 30 2010 through to January 1 2012 at Miami-Dade County in the Southern District of Florida and elsewhere Richard Sheridan and Michael Hegarty conspired to trade in horns of the Black Rhino namely a carved libation cup." The trade in rhino horns has become a lucrative crime for organised crooks with its pound per pound value more than gold.

NICKED: Richard Sheridan in a police custody image during museum burglary probe

Most of it ends up in China and Vietnam where it is used in herbal remedies.

Sheridan is part of an inter-related clan of Irish Travellers who originate from Rathkeale, County Limerick, in the Republic of Ireland. In September 2017, Hegarty, 42, who is married to a cousin of Sheridan, pleaded guilty at US District Court in Miami to fraudulently facilitating the transportation and concealment of a Libation Cup carved from an endangered rhinoceros horn, that was illegally smuggled from the United States to the UK. He was jailed for 18 months in November that year. His prosecution was part of Operation Crash, an effort to "detect, deter, and prosecute those engaged in the illegal killing of rhinoceros and the unlawful trafficking of rhinoceros horns." According to Hegarty's plea agreement, in mid-April 2012, he and Sheridan joined a Miami resident at an auction in Rockingham, North Carolina. It was said Sheridan acted as the bidder for the three individuals, and made the winning £44,000 bid for the libation cup. Sheridan then smuggled the cup out of the US in his luggage, and failed to declare the export as required by law to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and neither applied for nor obtained the permit required under the Endangered Species Act. He was arrested by the Met Police in possession of the cup in London in 2012 with a number of other travellers while attempting to sell it to a Hong Kong businessman, however, no charges were brought in the UK. Hegarty was arrested in January 2016 through an Interpol red notice and extradited to the US from Belgium.

CUFFED: Sheridan arrested at Smithy Fen (BBC) with insets Dale Farm and items stolen from museums

Westminster Magistrates' heard that Sheridan was separated from his wife and two teenage children and living on his own on benefits in a caravan in Luton before his arrest. He said he was of ill health and suffering with diabetes and has a disabled sister who heavily relies on his support. However, Judge Coleman said extradition would not breach his human rights and sister, Lucy O'Brien, had managed during his previous spells in prison. A Home Office spokesman said: "The Secretary of State has ordered the extradition "Mr Sheridan has since applied for leave to appeal to the High Court and this process must be concluded before any further action can be taken." Sheridan is remanded in custody as he is considered at risk of absconding.

CAMPAIGNER: Richard Sheridan at the UN in Strasbourg while he fought to block the Dale Farm eviction

During the campaign for Dale Farm, Sheridan met Mrs Redgrave several times as she urged the council to allow them to stay on the green belt site in Essex, that was built without planning permission, and was pictured smiling with her and late brother actor Corin Redgrave. In May 2011, Hegarty and Sheridan's cousin Richard "kerry" O'Brien junior, 33, were jailed for six months in prison in Denver for attempting to ship four rhino horns to Ireland. The pair met with an undercover USFWS agent on Nov 13 2010 and purchased four rhino horns for around £13,000. Richard Sheridan was also jailed in April 2016 for conspiracy to steal rhino horns and other artefacts from museum burglaries across the UK and has two previous convictions for tobacco smuggling.

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