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Wednesday 27 August 2014

‘Largest facilitator of child porn in the world’ may seek judicial review

Dublin man Eric Eoin Marques wanted by US authorities over child porn charges

Brian Kavanagh

Published 28/01/2014 | 12:44

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AN Irishman wanted in the US and described as “the largest facilitator of child porn in the world” may seek judicial review of the DPP’s decision not to prosecute him in Ireland.

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Eric Eoin Marques, who is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting, is wanted by US authorities to face charges relating to conspiring to distribute and advertise child pornography, and advertising and distributing child pornography.

The 28-year-old, with an address at Mountjoy Square in central Dublin, has been in custody since his arrest in August last year, after he was refused bail over concerns he represented a flight risk and that he may abscond or interfere with evidence in the case.

The charges against Mr Marques relate to images on over a hundred "anonymous websites" described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.

The websites in question have "thousands of members" who have posted "millions of images" of child pornography. Some the children involved are infants, the FBI claim.

The extradition court previously heard from FBI Special Agent Brooke Donahue, who described Mr Marques as "the largest facilitator of child porn in the world”.

Counsel for Mr Marques, Mícheál P O’Higgins SC, this morning told the court that he and a new legal team had just come on record and on that basis he would ask for more time.

He said his client was anxious to receive advice on the Damache case and the possibility of seeking judicial review on the same grounds. Mr O’Higgins asked for a three week adjournment in the case.

Ali Charaf Damache (48), who is wanted in the United States on international terrorism charges, had sought judicial review to challenge the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland for the alleged offences.

On Monday High Court judge Mr Justice John Edwards said that he was not disposed to grant Damache leave for judicial review on any basis.

With regard to Mr Marques, Mr Justice Edwards said he was anxious to have “some move” on the case on the next occasion as the respondent was in custody. He remanded Mr Marques in custody until February 18.

In December last year the extradition court heard the DPP had decided not to bring proceedings against Mr Marques with respect to the alleged offences.

The court heard that a detailed letter had been submitted to the DPP, in which it was indicated that Mr Marques would enter a plea of guilty were the offences to be prosecuted in this jurisdiction.

The High Court also previously heard it was alleged that an examination of Mr Marques’ home computer by gardai showed that as well as hosting and facilitating the child pornography websites, Mr Marques was also visiting the sites, had direct knowledge of what he was hosting and had administrator access to one site.

It was alleged that Mr Marques was attempting to gain access to foreign website hosting companies using a fraudulent image of a United States passport.

The court heard that Marques had “substantial financial resources” – with $1.5 million passing through one bank account - and had searched the internet about whistleblower Edward Snowden and about obtaining a Russian Visa. 

There was evidence that Freedom Hosting operated off a server space which was allegedly paid for by an account in Eric Marques’ name from a US bank account, and the billing address was through a private mailbox facility in Las Vegas assigned to Eric Marques.

The court heard that if convicted Mr Marques faces spending the remainder of his natural life in prison as the four charges could result in a sentence totalling 100 years.

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