A court in New Zealand has ruled that Kim Dotcom, the founder of controversial file-storage website Megaupload, can be extradited to the U.S. along with three other defendants to face criminal charges related to the operation of the defunct online service.
Ron Mansfield — Dotcom’s lawyer — said Monday’s decision by the Auckland High Court was “extremely disappointing” but added that the German-born entrepreneur, whose real name is Kim Schmitz, was “far from defeated.”
Mansfield was referring to the specifics of Monday’s court ruling, which appear to have given hope to Dotcom that he can still avoid being sent to the U.S. In the ruling, which came after five months of deliberations, Justice Murray Gilbert said Dotcom could be extradited, though not on copyright charges, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Dotcom’s legal team had argued that there is no equivalent “copyright” crime in New Zealand, which formed the basis of the American’s extradition request. The judge agreed. But at the same time, the court agreed with the U.S. claim that Dotcom could be extradited because it was essentially a fraud case, which was also listed in the extradition treaty.
Speaking to the Herald after the ruling, a defiant Dotcom said he had “won the major legal argument … that copyright is not extraditable” as far as New Zealand law is concerned. He added, “Now they’re trying through the back door to say this was a fraud case. I’m confident going with this judgment to the Court of Appeal.”
The Megaupload story has been rolling on for years, with no likelihood of it ending anytime soon.
Dotcom’s central claim has always been that the service, which had around 150 million users, operated as a content storage platform where users could store, backup, and view their files. But when opponents in the entertainment industry repeatedly insisted Megaupload was actually a file-sharing site where users could access a large number of music tracks, movies, and other copyrighted material, the U.S. authorities became involved.
Days after it was taken offline in January, 2012, police staged a dramatic raid on the Auckland home of Dotcom, who has permanent residency in the country. After a brief period behind bars, the Megaupload founder was bailed out and has been fighting several extradition-linked court cases ever since.
Megaupload reportedly raked in around $175 million dollars during its seven years online, with the entertainment industry claiming the site’s pirated content resulted in revenue losses totaling approximately $500 million. If Dotcom loses any future appeal and is ultimately found guilty of the charges in a U.S. court, he could be landed with a jail sentence lasting several decades.