Belfast Telegraph

US extradition on cards for 'kingpin of web child porn'

By Shane Phelan, Dearbhail McDonald and Adrian Weckler

An Irishman described by the FBI as "the largest facilitator of child pornography on the planet" faces up to 30 years in a US prison if he is extradited.

US authorities are seeking Eric Eoin Marques (28) to face charges of distributing, conspiring to distribute and advertising child porn, as well as aiding and abetting advertising of child porn, as part of an international investigation.

According to the FBI, the charges relate to images on a large number of websites which are described as being extremely violent, graphic and depicting the rape and torture of children.

If convicted, New York-born Marques, who came to Ireland aged five, faces up to 30 years in prison.

Mr Marques has run a web-hosting company from his Dublin apartment for the past eight years.

He is suspected by the FBI of being the founder of Freedom Hosting, one of the biggest anonymous hosts in the 'dark' or hidden web, where people can share files without being traced.

The US has nine days to formally request his extradition.

Following a brief appearance at the High Court in Dublin yesterday, Marques was remanded in custody until Thursday of next week. The court heard that he was arrested last Thursday in Dublin on a provisional warrant and refused bail last Friday morning.

Dressed in black jeans and a T-shirt, Marques stood at the back of the packed court flanked by prison officers, with members of his family nearby.

Ronan Kennedy BL, for the Attorney General, had asked the judge to remand the suspect for another week in anticipation of a formal request for extradition.

Mr Justice Paul McDermott warned Mr Kennedy that "time is running out" before granting the application. No objection was made by Marques's legal team.

Yesterday, his father, Antonio Marques, said: "My son is completely innocent."

Mr Marques (60), who worked for Irish Rail for more than 15 years and now works in the United Arab Emirates, claimed that his son had stipulated to customers that he would not tolerate illegal activity on the websites.

He refused to confirm whether or not his son's home had been searched by gardai.

FACTFILE

Why does the FBI want to extradite Eric Eoin Marques?

The charges relate to images on over a hundred "anonymous websites" described as being extremely graphic. The FBI believes the websites operate on a single computer server to a single anonymous hosting service which has been accessed and administered to via a single IP address – the numerical label assigned to each computer or device that uses the internet – in the US.

The US claims he is the sole administrator of the anonymous hosting service.

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