Internet mogul Kim Dotcom should be surrendered to the United States, a New Zealand judge has ruled.
The ruling comes today following almost four years’ legal and political maneuvering regarding the man who ran the Megaupload business and following the raid on his mansion in January 2012.
Dotcom faces US changes that range from copyright charges to money laundering and allegedly running a criminal conspiracy.
The Megaupload business was owned by Dotcom and fellow defendant Ortman, which generated tens of millions of dollars in revenues from music and movie downloads.
The FBI warrant sought the four on a range of charges relating to the Megaupload business, from criminal copyright violation through to moneylaundering and operating an organised criminal conspiracy.
Megaupload, owned by Dotcom and Ortmann, was a popular filesharing website dominated by copyrighted material available for download. The business was a huge moneyspinner with Dotcom pulling in US$60m over 2009 and 2010.
An FBI investigation into it began in 2010, about the time the United States stepped up its protection of intellectual property across the internet, and culminated in a series of coordinated raids across the world. Along with the four arrested in New Zealand, warrants were issued for three other Megaupload staff in other countries.
Dotcom will almost certainly appeal today’s District Court decision to New Zealand’s higher courts and proceed to the highest court, the New Zealand Supreme Court.
The New Zealand Herald report that he also said he had fresh legal funding to defend himself in New Zealand and also planned to take legal action in Hong Kong seeking more than $2 billion in damages for the takedown of Megaupload. His Hong Kong lawyer, Kiwi expat Gerard McCoy had won the right for Dotcom to access $50m in restrained funds for legal and living expenses.
“I now have the opportunity to fight back in Hong Kong and take legal action against those who have destroyed what I have built there and that means I can sue, indirectly the US government by suing the Hong Kong Department of Justice.”
“I have had enough of being defensive. I want to go on the attack now and 2016 will bring that opportunity.”
Dotcom, who has permanent residency under a government visa scheme for wealthy migrants, has also threatened fresh legal action in New Zealand over any deportation attempt by Immigration NZ. The Herald revealed in October 2014 he had not listed a dangerous driving conviction on his residency application as required by law.
An Immigration NZ spokesman said the investigation was not yet complete and it was “still assessing Mr Dotcom’s potential liability for deportation”.
The spokesman said “it is not possible to say how long this process will take”.
Dotcom said he believed the deportation option was being held in reserve in case he was successful fighting off extradition.
“If I win the extradition then we deport. If he loses we don’t have to deport. It’s Plan B, right? They’re waiting for the decision, if I’m eligible for surrender.”
The extradition case saw New Zealand government lawyers, acting for the US government and presenting evidence thaat showed the Megaupload filesharing buisness was intended to aid and reward the pirating of copyrighted material.