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Kim Dotcom extradition process may only now be reaching half-time

By | Published on Friday 7 December 2018

Kim Dotcom

Next month it will be seven years since the American authorities shut down the MegaUpload digital locker and video sharing platform on the grounds of copyright infringement. But efforts to extradite its management team to face criminal charges in the US continue to go through the motions, with a lawyer representing American prosecutors telling the Supreme Court in New Zealand this week that those efforts may only now be at “half-time”.

MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom and three of his former colleagues – all currently based in New Zealand – continue to deny the various criminal charges filed against them in the US.

They have also argued at length that they cannot be extradited to America because New Zealand’s extradition treaty with the US doesn’t cover copyright infringement. For their part, American prosecutors have argued that by allegedly allowing and encouraging rampant infringement on their networks, there are grounds for accusing the MegaUpload team of conspiracy to defraud, which would be sufficient to allow extradition to go ahead.

To date, the courts in New Zealand have mainly sided with American prosecutors. Judges first said that there were sufficient grounds for extradition back in 2015. That decision was then upheld by both the High Court and the Court Of Appeal.

Dotcom et al are now trying to take the matter to the New Zealand Supreme Court. But at a preliminary hearing in that court earlier this week, legal reps for the US argued that yet another appeal hearing is not an option for the MegaUpload team.

Whether or not a third appeal should be allowed depends on how you interpret changes to New Zealand law since this whole case began back in 2012. The US argues that because no further stage of appeal would have been available back then, it shouldn’t be available now. Legal reps for the MegaUpload defendants disagree.

It was while presenting America’s arguments on that point that lawyer David Boldt remarked that efforts to extradite Dotcom and friends are still only at the halfway point, even if the Supreme Court declines to consider the Mega team’s arguments one last time.

Boldt probably didn’t mean that he expects another seven years of delays and deliberations before America’s extradition attempts reach their conclusion. More he was pointing out that there are two stages to the extradition process in New Zealand and everything to date has been stage one, the judicial stage.

Even if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the case and the Court Of Appeal’s ruling stands, the matter would then go to the country’s Minister Of Justice, who must decide whether or not to surrender the accused to the US authorities. This process could also take years and see past arguments re-presented.

According to Stuff, Boldt observed that “after seven years we might almost be at half-time, but that’s just the way this particular case has gone”.

Back in the US, both the music and movie industries also sued Dotcom and the old MegaUpload business over the copyright infringement the defunct company allegedly facilitated. Those civil cases, though, have been on hold for years pending the outcome of the criminal case, which in turn is waiting for the snail’s pace extraction process to reach its conclusion. Still, at least that’s now approaching half-time!