independent

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Child porn 'king' may go free as DPP decides against prosecution

Eric Eoin Marques
Eric Eoin Marques

THE extradition to the United States of an Irishman described by the FBI as the "largest facilitator of child porn on the planet" is almost certain to be challenged after the DPP said she would not prosecute him here.

Eric Eoin Marques (28), who previously denied he is the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting, offered to plead guilty to several counts relating to images on over 100 anonymous websites described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.

Last month Mr Marques indicated in a letter to the DPP that he would plead guilty, in Ireland, to charges relating to conspiring to distribute and advertise child pornography, as well as advertising and distributing child pornography. But yesterday the DPP Claire Loftus said that she would not bring proceedings against him in Ireland.

Now the US faces a battle to extradite him because of its harsh sentencing.

Mr Marques faced a maximum 14-year term in Ireland, a term that would have been significantly reduced by an early guilty plea and the fact that he has no prior criminal record.

In contrast, he faced between 20 and 30 years on each of the four charges laid down in an extradition warrant issued from the US state of Maryland.

The FBI told the Irish High Court that, if convicted, Mr Marques faced spending the remainder of his natural life in prison as the four charges could result in a sentence totalling 100 years.

The Justice Minister has power, under Section 17 (2) of the 1965 Extradition Act, to refuse an extradition where the DPP has decided not to bring proceedings against a suspect.

However, it is highly unlikely that the minister would even consider a refusal to extradite in this case. A full hearing is now expected early next year when Mr Marques is set to fight his extradition on a number of grounds, including the possible jail term he faces if he is surrendered to America.

Mr Marques, with an address at Mountjoy Square in central Dublin, has been in custody since his arrest in August. The High Court previously heard from FBI Special Agent Brooke Donahue, who described Mr Marques as “the largest facilitator of child porn in the world”.

Barrister Ronan Kennedy, for the Attorney General, told the High Court that he had received confirmation that the DPP had decided, yesterday morning, not to bring proceedings against Mr Marques.

Senior counsel for Mr Marques, Remy Farrell, said that the direction from the DPP was a “very significant event” in the context of the extradition proceedings.

He submitted that the sensible application would be to adjourn the case and list it for mention in January.

High Court judge Mr Justice John Edwards said there was no question of a date being fixed now, and he remanded Mr Marques, who appeared before the court in a hooded top and jeans, in custody to appear before the High Court on January 21 next.

The High Court previously heard that Mr Marques had “substantial financial resources” – with $1.5m (€1.1m) passing through one bank account – and had searched the internet about whistleblower Edward Snowden and about obtaining a Russian visa.

Irish Independent

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