Saturday 27 December 2014

'Largest facilitator of child porn in the world' refused legal aid by the High Court today

Ruaidhri Giblin

Published 12/03/2014 | 14:08

A MAN the FBI has called “the largest facilitator of child porn in the world” was refused legal aid today prior to his application for a judicial review of the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland.

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 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.

In his decision to refuse legal aid for Marques this morning (Wednesday), Mr Justice John Edwards said the issue had given him a lot of trouble.

“It is fair to say that Mr Marques is in deep trouble,” the judge said. He faced extradition for very serious offences, the possibility of being put on trial and a very lengthy sentence.

In these circumstances, the judge said, it was highly desirable that he be legally represented but the question was whether he could afford it.

The evidence was that over the last 5 to 6 years before his arrest, the judge said, he earned very substantial sums of money running into seven figures rounded up.

By way of example, the judge said, in Detective Inspector Declan Daly's analysis of monies moving to and from a Bank of America account, total identified lodgements and transfers amounted to approximately €1,098,000.

Moreover, the judge said, the evidence was that his living expenses were modest. He wasn't living a high lifestyle or an expensive lifestyle.

The only emblem of wealth he displayed, the judge said, was that he drove a BMW X5 Jeep. He ate every day in McDonalds, had no expensive habits like gambling or drugs and he admitted to using the services of an escort agency, the judge said, spending some hundreds of euro a week on that.

Mr Justice Edwards said large sums of money still existed in a variety of bank accounts but that those were all frozen by the FBI.

There were small amounts of disposable income in Irish bank accounts, the judge said, very modest sums which in themselves would not go next or near funding legal representation in terms of litigation before the court.

The difficulty was, the judge said, that there was money unaccounted for, an unexplained six figure sum, “at least unaccounted for in terms of a paper trail.”

Marques' evidence was that he transferred substantial sums of money to his then girlfriend and certain associates of hers from time to time, the judge said, and that indeed she had the ability to withdraw money herself from his bank account and did so.

It was his evidence, according to the judge, that in a general way the unaccounted for money went to those persons, and “when I say in a general way, there wasn't a screed of paper,” to support it.

But his evidence was clear, Mr Justice Edwards said, that he didn't have any hidden account and no liquid funds with which to pay his legal representation.

“The problem for the court is this was mere assertion and it was asserted by somebody who may well be making that assertion for self serving reasons”.

It was a matter for the court to weigh the credibility and reliability of the evidence given, he said. “It's difficult to get a handle on whether I'm being told the truth. All I have is his say so.”

He said it would be difficult for outsiders looking in to believe that huge sums of money would be handed over or made available to his girlfriend without any account being kept, without any security or record of it existing and apparently without any concern by Marques.

The judge said it was suggested during submissions that Marques was not a rounded individual and that this may explain the naivety on his part that had been advanced.

But again, the judge said, this was counsel's submission and mere assertion. There wasn't any evidence from any psychotherapist or psychologist to suggest that there was any problem in his make-up.

“The question for me is do I simply reject his testimony”. There may be some truth to it, the judge said, but Marques had not helped his situation by the fact that he was living under the radar and had not kept accounts.

It would be much easier to accept what he was putting forward if there was some paper trail, but there wasn't, the judge said. He had not complied with his responsibilities towards corporate governance and the keeping of records in respect of bank accounts.

Mr Justice Edwards said that although he was prepared to accept his naivety to explain the rather fantastical situation of the unaccountable monies, he was not satisfied at this point to give a recommendation to grant legal aid.

However, the judge said, he was not disposed to regard this as his final word on the matter. If some new evidence was put before the court, if there was expert testimony with regard to this mans emotional functioning or psychological state, it might or might not make some difference.

Counsel for Marques, Mark Lynam BL, said it was unfortunate that the type of expert report the judge spoke of was not before the court prior to the application for legal aid but his client had ran out of money and was not able to do so.

It was a “chicken and an egg” type difficulty, counsel said, but “we will endeavour to do it”.

Mr Lynam indicated to the court that the judicial review proceedings should commence on March 25 2014.

If convicted Marques could face the remainder of his natural life in prison as the four charges could result in a sentence totaling 100 years.

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