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 Marques, who has dual Irish-US citizenship, to face trial on charges for distributing, conspiring to distribute, and advertising child pornography. It was also alleged that he aided and abetted a conspiracy to advertise child porn and the court has heard that if convicted, he could face consecutive sentences of up to 100 years in jail.
The charges relate to images on more than 100 “anonymous websites” described as being extremely violent and graphic and depicting the rape and torture of pre-pubescent children.
The sites have “thousands of members” who have posted “millions of images” and some of the children involved are as young as infants, the FBI claim.
He had been refused bail last month on the grounds that he presented as a possible flight risk and it was feared he would destroy evidence.
However, earlier this week Remy Farrell, for Marques, successfully argued that despite the High Court’s decision last month, his client is now entitled to make another bail application. He had submitted that now Marques, who has an address at Mountjoy Square, Dublin 1, is to face a full extradition hearing which marked a new procedural stage, this meant that he was entitled to apply for bail again.
Yesterday, Mr Justice John Edwards held that in the interest of justice, he would allow the fresh bail application to be made.
Special FBI agent Brooke Donahue told Patrick McGrath for the Attorney General that Marques was paying for web-space to host child pornography 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. The agent agreed that he had described 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, Marques would get on the internet and “make contact with co-conspirators”.
He claimed Marques had two bank accounts in the US, one in Ireland and two Paypal accounts and there had been transactions in excess of $1.5m (€1.12m).
He had been looking up information online on how to obtain Russia 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 Donahue, who is attached to the FBI’s violent crime against children unit.
Mr Farrell said Marques was not going to give evidence again and that Marques, who has no prior criminal convictions, fully appreciates that bail, if granted, would be subject to the most stringent degree of conditions.
Mr McGrath, for the Attorney General, said the circumstances had not changed. Marques has not produced his own passport and the scanned US passport showed a willingness to produce false documentation.
He argued that Marques’s situation has deteriorated as he is now the subject of a full extradition request from the US and it is more likely he 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.
Garda Insp Declan Daly said he feared that Marques could not be prevented from going online and could interfere with evidence. The court heard he managed to get access to a hosting site even after the FBI had changed its password.
Mr Justice Edwards will decide at 2pm if the man is to be granted bail pending his extradition hearing.