Court hears FBI suspect Marques gave €250,000 to girlfriend

Tuesday 11 March 2014 22.31
Eric Eoin Marques is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting
Eric Eoin Marques is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting

A man the FBI has called "the largest facilitator of child porn in the world" has told the High Court that he gave €250,000 to his Romanian girlfriend and the rest of his daily expenses went on McDonalds, escorts and petrol.

Eric Eoin Marques is alleged to be the owner and administrator of an anonymous hosting site known as Freedom Hosting.

He is wanted by US authorities to face charges relating to conspiring to distribute and advertise child abuse images, and advertising and distributing images of child abuse.

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".

In the High Court, lawyers for Mr Marques applied for legal aid in advance of a judicial review application of the DPP's decision not to prosecute him in Ireland.

Giving evidence, Mr Marques said his father had been paying legal fees on his behalf because his money was frozen by the FBI.

The court heard evidence that Mr Marques set up a successful business in 2002 through which he earned what would amount to €1.15m from 2007 to 2012.

Counsel for Mr Marques, Mark Lynam BL, asked his client to account for cash withdrawals of €307,000 drawn down from accounts held in his name between 2006 and 2013.

Mr Marques told the court he gave €250,000 to his Romanian girlfriend and the remaining money was used for living expenses.

He said he transferred money to her and that she had access to his bank accounts from which she withdrew cash using ATMs.

Mr Marques said he gave her money to build a house in Romania where they had planned to live together but a friend of hers later told him that the land on which this house was being built belonged to her other boyfriend.

He said he was not trying to get the money back and told the court that he still loved her.

When asked what happened to a BMW jeep he bought in February 2013 for €21,000, Mr Marques said he changed ownership of the vehicle to his sister which she then sold to pay off legal debts to his father.

Under cross-examination from Ronan Kennedy BL, for the Attorney General, Mr Marques said he earned approximately €600,000 between 2007 and 2010 and after that he earned about €250,000 a year.

When asked what he was spending the money on, Mr Marques said he did not really remember but believed the money was saved.

He said he bought a computer for €5,000, a television for €1,000 and a phone for €700 but had no other assets to speak of.

When asked if he dined out, Mr Marques said he went to McDonalds every day and used a credit card to pay for his meals and other daily expenses.

In response to questioning on his other daily expenses, Mr Marques said he was spent money on petrol and a few hundred euro a week on escorts. He said he would sometimes carry around on him about €500 in cash.

"Can you help me at all then as to where all the other money you earned between 2007 and 2012 went to," Mr Kennedy asked, to which Mr Marques replied "no".

When asked if his company ever filed accounts, Mr Marques said it never traded, "I was trading under my own name."

Mr Kennedy asked Mr Marques if he was aware of the need to file tax returns, to which he replied "I don't wish to answer that because the answer might incriminate me."

When asked if he had given any money to his parents recently, Mr Marques said "no".

In his closing statement, Mr Kennedy said Mr Marques had a pot of €1.1m at one stage. The idea, counsel said, that Mr Marques gave €250,000 to a mysterious girl in Romania, and the rest he was unsure about, raised more questions than answers.

Mr Lynam said people can be very intelligent in some ways and socially naive in others. If his client's account of this woman in Romania was true, counsel said, than it does account for what was alleged to have been earned recently.

Mr Justice John Edwards said all the court had were mere assertions by Mr Marques without a scintilla of evidence or a screed of paperwork.

The judge said he would rule on the legal aid application tomorrow morning.

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