‘World’s biggest child porn dealer’ who says 100 years in U.S. jail is ‘too harsh’ may walk free after Ireland drops charges
- Irish authorities have revealed Eric Eoin Marques will not be prosecuted
- The 28-year-old is facing possible extradition to the U.S. by the FBI
- But it is unclear whether Ireland will hand him over to the U.S.
- Marques is wanted on four charges of distributing child pornography
In court: Ireland’s DPP has revealed Eric Eoin Marques, aged 28, will not be prosecuted. He is pictured here being led to the High Court in Dublin, Ireland
By LEON WATSON
An Irishman wanted in the U.S. for allegedly being the world’s biggest child porn dealer could go free, it emerged today.
Irish authorities have revealed Eric Eoin Marques will not be prosecuted under their jurisdiction and may challenge an attempt by the U.S. to get him extradited.
Last month the 28-year-old, who the FBI has accused of being the ‘largest facilitator of child porn on the planet’, indicated he would plead guilty to a series of charges under Irish law.
But Ireland’s director of public prosecutions Claire Loftus has now said she will not bring proceedings against him in Ireland – a decision she has not explained.
It leaves the U.S. facing an uphill battle to extradite Marques because of its stiffer sentencing regime.
In Ireland, Marques, who has no criminal record, faced a maximum 14-year jail term that would have been reduced significantly by an early guilty plea.
However, in America the FBI told a court last month that he faced a total at least 100 years – four life terms in Ireland – behind bars if found guilty of the charges he is accused of.
Unlike Ireland, each of the U.S. charges carries a sentence of between 20 and 30 years and are likely to run consecutively, rather than concurrently.
Lawyers for Marques are expected to argue that U.S. sentences for similar charges are too harsh in comparison with Ireland’s, and that Ireland should refuse to extradite him.
Further, under Irish law the Justice Minister has the power to refuse an extradition where the DPP has decided not to bring proceedings against a suspect, the Irish Independent reported.
Mr Marques’s senior counsel, Remy Farrell, told the paper the direction from the DPP before the accused’s extradition hearing, which is expected early next year, was a ‘very significant event’.
Mr Marques is accused of being the ‘largest facilitator of child porn on the planet’ by the FBI
After appearing before a High Court judge, Marques was denied bail and is considered a ‘flight risk’ by gardai and FBI
Last month Marques appeared before the High Court in Ireland, after he was arrested in Dublin in August on a Maryland warrant for four charges of distributing and promoting child pornography on the internet.
The images he is accused of distributing and promoting relate to distressing depictions of youngsters being raped or tortured.
Mr Marques, who has no previous convictions, has been identified as a ‘flight risk’ by gardai and the FBI.
The High Court heard that large payments had been transferred to accounts in Romania, and his computer’s browsing history revealed that he had inquired about Russian visas.
His arrest coincided with the disappearance of a vast number of ‘hidden services’ hosted on anonymous encrypted network Tor.
The website is accessed via a program called Tor which enables all members to remain anonymous online and uses an ‘onion’ system to make sure their IP address is always hidden from police.
Tor is free software and an open network that makes identifying the physical location of the computers operating the marketplace – or anyone visiting it – all but impossible.
It protects internet users against a form of network surveillance and state security known as traffic analysis.
They can be used for good – such as activists trapped in oppressive regimes – or bad, with drug dealers selling illegal substances without risk of getting caught.
Marques is alleged to be behind Freedom Hosting, a major hidden services hosting provider, Arstechnica reported.
Freedom Hosting was one of a number of hosting providers specializing in hidden services.
The business — which is in no way connected to the Tor Project — allegedly hosts child pornography sites, as well as sites that allowed pornography traffickers to post their links for distribution, Arstechnica reported.
Freedom Hosting was brought to the public’s attention in October 2011 after the hacking collective Anonymous shut down the largest host of such illegal material on the Web.
In a statement issued on the internet, Anonymous said that it had warned Freedom Hosting to take the sites down but the company failed to do so.
Anonymous hackers then disabled its servers and would continue to do so until the material was removed.
Its operation began on October 14 and targeted child porn on the ‘darknet’ – anonymised sites designed to protect users’ identities, which are invisible to normal web users.
Anonymous hackers detected the links to the pornography and removed them but they were up again within five minutes.
They then discovered that 95 per cent of the links were being hosted by Freedom Hosting and so shut down the firm’s servers.
Freedom Hosting switched to their backups but Anonymous closed them down again.
Child Porn Dealer Walks Free in Ireland