image source, RTÉimage captionEric Eoin Marques was extradited to the US in 2019

An Irish man described by the FBI as the world's largest facilitator of online child sex abuse has been sentenced to 27 years in prison by a US court.

Eric Eoin Marques, 36, from Dublin, operated an anonymous web-hosting service which was used to share millions of images of child abuse.

The images were described as being extremely violent and graphic.

Marques was extradited to the US by Irish authorities in March 2019.

The dual US and Irish citizen pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child abuse images in February last year.

'Truly despicable'

He was arrested at his flat on Mountjoy Square in Dublin in August 2013 following a year-long investigation involving the FBI and Gardaí (Irish police).

Prosecutors said Marques' web-hosting service contained more than 8.5m images of child exploitation material.

Sentencing Judge Theodore Chuang described the crime as "truly despicable" and compared Marques to a kingpin in a drugs case.

The judge added it was a "good thing for the world" that he would remain behind bars for a long time.

The Garda National Protective Services Bureau said the sentence reflected the harm done to children and the "scale and complexity" of Marques' enterprise.

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Gardaí Det Ch Supt Declan Daly said a significant number of children had been identified by the FBI in relation to Marques' activities.

Speaking to RTÉ's Morning Ireland programme, he said the children had been contacted and were receiving the necessary services.

No children in Ireland were identified.

'Supply and demand'

Det Chief Supt Daly said there was "a common misconception that child abuse imagery is a victimless crime".

"This sentence highlights that child abuse imagery is based on supply and demand," he said.

"In response to demand, a child somewhere in the world is sexually abused and therefore all involved are culpable."

He said there was strong global cooperation regarding child abuse offenses, adding that gardaí were "dogged in their determination" to find those in Ireland involved.

At his sentencing, the court was told Marques planned to return to Ireland on his release from prison.

Det Chief Supt Daly said Marques would be managed as a high-risk sex offender when he returns to the Irish jurisdiction.