A New Zealand district court has decreed that German national Kim Dotcom, the founder of defunct file hosting service Megaupload, can be extradited to the U.S. to face charges.
On Tuesday, Dec. 22, the district judge upheld the U.S.' appeal and ruled that Dotcom along with his three associates, Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, can be extradited to the country to face prosecution. The decision comes as the U.S. satisfied the necessary requirements for a legitimate case.
Judge Nevin Dawson said that an "overwhelming" quantity of evidence against the defendants have been accumulated by the U.S. He added that the defendants fell "well short of undermining the case."
The current ruling comes four years after the Megaupload founder was indicted and the extradition proceedings were launched.
Dotcom and the three other defendants are charged with copyright infringement, money laundering and conspiring to commit money laundering and racketeering willfully. The charges were filed in the U.S., which prompted the request for extradition.
According to the lawsuit, the four were aware that Megaupload was being used to distribute and reproduce copyrighted materials. However, they did not make any attempts to thwart the practice by either deleting the files or removing access to the same. The case alleges that the group generated $175 million via these unlawful practices.
Earlier in September, we reported that Dotcom had appeared before a court in New Zealand for a preliminary hearing pertaining to the extradition appeal made by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Officials estimate that Megaupload's copyright infringement of music, TV programs, movies, e-books, as well as entertainment and business software on a "massive scale" resulted in a loss of over $500 million to copyright holders.
Dotcom, a resident of New Zealand, and the co-accused have maintained they are innocent. The criminal cases filed against the group have been made in the U.S. and not in any court in New Zealand.
Hours prior to the court hearing, Dotcom took to Twitter to post a message for his supporters.
No matter what happens in Court tomorrow, I'll be fine. Don't worry. Enjoy your Christmas & know that I'm grateful to have you, my friends.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) December 22, 2015
On the day of the hearing, his appearance in court - as in the past - saw a bevy of reporters throng Dotcom.
Kim Dotcom arrives for extradition hearing decision, met by media scrum @ONENewsNZ pic.twitter.com/ElCLuuY9PA — Chris Chang (@ChrisChang) December 23, 2015
A visibly disappointed Dotcom left the court and promised to fight the ruling.
"I'm disappointed," he told reporters.
If convicted in the U.S., Dotcom and his co-defendants could be facing several years in prison.
While the district court's ruling decrees that Dotcom and his associates be extradited to the U.S. for prosecution, he and his co-defendants have the option of appealing the decision.
Ira Rothken, a defense attorney representing Dotcom, tweeted post the decision that the defendants intended to appeal the extradition ruling.
The @KimDotcom team looks forward to having the US request for extradition reviewed in the High Court.We have no other comments at this time
— Ira Rothken (@rothken) December 23, 2015
In the interim all four defendants will be able remain out on bail. Judge Nevin Dawson, however, said that a high risk of the accused fleeing existed, but also noted that the defendants had abided by the bail's terms since their arrest.