New Zealand’s top court to let Dotcom appeal extradition

AFP, WELLINGTON

Fri, Dec 21, 2018 - Page 6

New Zealand’s top court is to hear Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom’s final appeal against extradition to the US on fraud and online piracy charges, judges said yesterday.

The German national, who is accused of netting millions from his file-sharing empire, faces charges of racketeering, fraud and money laundering in the US, carrying jail terms of up to 20 years.

A panel of five New Zealand Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected an argument from lawyers representing the US that they did not have the power to hear appeals from Dotcom and his three co-accused.

“We conclude that we have jurisdiction to entertain the proposed appeals,” the judges said in a written judgement.

The Supreme Court is Dotcom’s last avenue of legal appeal in New Zealand. Had the judges accepted the US argument, he would have been out of options.

However, the decision means that he has one more chance to overturn a court ruling that he should be sent to the US to face charges.

The extradition order has already been upheld by two appeal courts in a marathon case that began when armed police raided Dotcom’s mansion in Auckland, New Zealand, in January 2012.

No date has yet been set for the Supreme Court appeal hearing.

The FBI-led case has accused Dotcom of industrial-scale online piracy via Megaupload, which US authorities shut down when the raid took place.

They have alleged that the file-sharing service netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners more than US$500 million by offering pirated content, including films and music.

Dotcom and his co-accused — Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk — have denied any wrongdoing and have said that Megaupload was targeted because established interests were threatened by online innovation.

The Web site was an early example of cloud computing, allowing users to upload large files onto a server so others could easily download them without clogging up their e-mail systems.

At its height in 2011, Megaupload claimed to have 50 million daily users and account for 4 percent of the world’s Internet traffic.