I am quite aware that this is an ongoing investigation and so will attempt to merely speculate on what has been reported in the papers.
Eric Eoin Marques (28) is a Brazillian-Portuguese, US-born Irish national living in a refurbished flat in Mountjoy Sq. alleged to be the owner-operator of "Freedom Hosting", a collection of 550 servers that operate in Europe mainly and often under different registered companies that provides an annonymous service to customers wishing to establish websites.
The servers utilize a system called "T.O.R. Encryption" to annonymize users, hide I.P. addresses. Users frequenting the sites it hosts are therefore annonymous. It hosts sites such as "Silk Road", where illegal drugs and other paraphenalia may be purchased. And of course, pornography. In fairness, there is a disclaimer that every service advertized must be legal. But that's not the case. Over a hundred wesbites that contain mainly child pornography of every description.
The media have been keen to label him the world's biggest "child porn-facillitator": he hasn't actually established any of these questionable websites himself. There is no doubt the operator knew precisely what was being hosted because "Annonymous", the hacktivist collective struck Freedom Hosting because of the content. So, ignorance is no defence.The charges against him 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 in question have "thousands of members" who have posted "millions of images" of child abuse. The FBI has claimed that some of the children involved are infants.
Was Marques the operator? The FBI seem to believe so. His behaviour seems suspicious.
After his arrest, facing the prospect of extradition to the US and a possible 30 year jail sentence, his solicitor made an offer to the Irish authorities:Mr Marques has been refused bail as he represented a flight risk. The court heard he had travelled extensively and large sums had passed through his bank accounts. His previous trips included a flight to Brazil to visit his grandmother, said friends.
Mr Marques also told an Irish court that he visited Romania a few times, where he had friends and an ex-girlfriend whom he was helping out financially. Mr Marques said he was last there a few weeks ago when he withdrew €6,000 to help a friend start a business.
His claims of having a girlfriend were treated with scepticism by his neighbours, who never saw him with another person, though he sometimes left his flat late at night. The technical press said that his servers may have been held in countries such as Romania.
Mr Marques also admitted that he had used his computer to check about visas for Russia. His interest was aroused, he said, by what was happening with former National Security Agency worker Edward Snowden.
Clearly, Marques was keen to be prosecute here where the maximum sentence is seemingly 14 years. Oh, and there's good behaviour. Piece of cake.Counsel for Mr Marques, Remy Farrell SC, said that last month his solicitor had submitted a detailed letter to the DPP, in which it was indicated that Mr Marques would enter a plea of guilty were the offences to be prosecuted in this jurisdiction.
Now however, the D.P.P. has decided not to prosecute. Why? Surely his apparent admission is a gift and spares a prosecution? Surely his cooperation with his putative operation of this server host company could yield further prosecutions? Did he not just offer them the case?
I suspect that there is a question as to whether any of these crimes were committed in Ireland? If questionable content was uploaded onto servers based in France (apparently some of the servers were located there), then was the operator liable? In which jurisdiction was the crime committed?
I wonder whether the government here considered the possible threat to cloud computing ("the next big thing") by a prosecution of Marques and closer examination of the "dark net"?
Or do the Americans want this one?
With Marques apparently off the hook, where does that leave the US extradition attempts?
Some posters on boards.ie seem to think that the attempted prosecution of Marques was wrong and in some way an unwarranted attack on the "freedom of the internet"? Arguing reasonably that if one owned private property and leased it to another, who proceeded to commit crimes at that location, that the original owner should not be held accountable? But does that hold true for someone that may be fully aware of what exactly his servers were hosting?The Justice Minister has power, under Section 17 (2) of the 1965 Extradition Act, to refuse an extradition where the DPP has decided not to bring proceedings against a suspect.
However, it is highly unlikely that the minister would even consider a refusal to extradite in this case. A full hearing is now expected early next year when Mr Marques is set to fight his extradition on a number of grounds, including the possible jail term he faces if he is surrendered to America.
Not really sure how this is going to play out, big issues here concerning the responsibilities of internet service providers and host companies. Many argue that prosecution of Marques just means another will emerge: you know, the same argument deployed with illicit drugs. I think everybody can agree that child pornography is different and anyone knowingly providing such services should be prosecuted, tried and executed.