Child pornography suspect to learn bail decision tomorrow

Thursday 12 September 2013 23.03
Eric Eoin Marques was arrested in Dublin on foot of a provisional extradition warrant issued by a US court
Eric Eoin Marques was arrested in Dublin on foot of a provisional extradition warrant issued by a US court

A 28-year-old Irish man wanted in the United States and described by an FBI Special Agent as "the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet" will find out tomorrow if he is going to be released on bail.

Eric Eoin Marques had been refused bail by the High Court in Dublin last month, on foot of an extradition request by the FBI.

US authorities want to extradite Mr Marques, who has dual Irish-US citizenship, to face trial on charges for distributing, conspiring to distribute, and advertising child abuse material.

It is also alleged he aided and abetted a conspiracy to advertise child abuse material and the court has heard that if convicted he could faces consecutive sentences of up to 100 years in jail.

The charges relate to images on over 100 "anonymous websites" described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.

The websites have "thousands of members" who have posted "millions of images" of child abuse material and some the children involved are as young as infants, the FBI claim.

Mr Marques was refused bail last month on the grounds that he presented a possible flight risk and it was feared he would destroy evidence, "particularly computer evidence".

However, earlier this week Remy Farrell SC, for Mr Marques, successfully argued that despite the High Court's decision last month, the 28-year-old is now entitled to make another bail application.

He had submitted that now Mr Marques, who has an address at Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1, is to face a full extradition hearing which marked a new procedural stage, and this meant that he was entitled to apply for bail again.

Mr Justice John Edwards held that in the interest of justice he would allow the fresh bail application to be made.

Special Agent Brooke Donahue of the FBI told Patrick McGrath SC for the Attorney General that Mr Marques was paying for web-space to host child abuse material sites and had control over a number of them.

He rented the web-space from a French company and paid for them through a bank in Las Vegas in the United States.

The agent agreed that he had described Mr Marques as "the largest facilitator of child porn on the planet" and added "that remains true to this day". The agent said he feared that if bailed, Mr Marques would get on the internet and "make contact with co-conspirators".

He claimed Mr Marques had two bank accounts in the United States, one in Ireland and two Paypal accounts and there had been transactions in excess of $1.5m.

He had been looking up information online about how to obtain Russian citizenship, and an examination of his computer had shown he had a scanned image of a US passport with which he had been trying to buy website hosting space from a Russian company.

"He was trying to look for a place to reside to make it most difficult to be extradited to the United States," said Special Agent Donahue, who is attached to the FBI's violent crime against children unit.

Mr Farrell put it to him that Mr Marques had looked up information on Russian citizenship out of curiosity about former US NSA employee Edward Snowden, who had been in the news.

But Agent Donahue said the difference was that Mr Snowden had been looking for asylum in Russia not to be granted citizenship.

Mr Farrell said Mr Marques was not going to give evidence again. He said that concerns raised can be dealt with by means of conditions.

He said Mr Marques, who has no prior criminal convictions, fully appreciates that bail, if granted, would be subject to the most stringent degree of conditions including curfews, multiple daily signing-on as well as undertakings not to access certain technologies.

The court also heard that he had ties with his family, his father a Brazilian architect who works overseas, as well as his Irish mother who lives here.

Mr McGrath, for the Attorney General said that the circumstances had not changed. Mr Marques has not produced his own passport and the scanned US passport showed a willingness to produce false documentation.

He argued that Mr Marques's situation has deteriorated as he is now the subject of a full extradition request from the US and it is more likely will face prosecution for the charges and that is a matter the court should take into account.

He has access to substantial sums of money in US and passed significant sums of money to Romania where he has a girlfriend.

Evidence that his girlfriend had spent the money "did not stack up" counsel argued adding that "should set alarm bells off in the court's mind".

Garda Inspector Declan Daly also said he feared that Mr Marques could not be prevented from going on the internet and could interfere with evidence.

The court had heard that he managed to get access to a hosting site even after the FBI had changed its password.

Mr Justice Edwards will decide at 2pm tomorrow if the man is to be granted bail pending his extradition hearing.