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Two former MegaUpload execs reach deal with prosecution to avoid extradition to the US

By | Published on Wednesday 11 May 2022


Two former MegaUpload execs have reached a deal with the authorities which means they will avoid extradition to the US to face criminal charges in relation to the long defunct file-transfer and video-upload service. They will face charges in New Zealand instead.

It’s more than ten years since the US authorities shut down MegaUpload on the grounds that it facilitated and encouraged rampant copyright infringement. Prosecutors in the US then got the MegaUpload team arrested, most of whom were living in New Zealand at the time.

The plan was to extradite that team to face charges of criminal copyright infringement in the US, though ten years on the extradition process is still going through the motions. The prosecution has generally prevailed in court when it comes to deciding whether or not there are grounds for extradition, but there are lots of routes of appeal, and so far the MegaUpload team have pursued them all.

However, the whole case is now at the final stage. With all options for fighting the extradition in the courts exhausted, it’s up to New Zealand’s justice minister to decide whether he wants to intervene. If not, the former MegaUpload chiefs will be heading to the US.

Or at least one of the former MegaUpload chiefs will be heading to the US. But only one, now that two of the other defendants have reached a deal. That’s Mathias Ortmann and Bram Van Der Kolk. Under their deal, they will now face MegaUpload related charges in New Zealand, after which the US authorities will drop their charges. So the legal woes are not at an end, but the prospect of extradition is off the table.

Except, that is, for the most famous former MegaUpload chief, that being Kim Dotcom. He will continue to fight extradition and – assuming that fails – still plans to fight the criminal charges in an American courtroom.

Confirming they had reached a deal with prosecutors, Ortmann and Van Der Kolk said in a statement: “New Zealand is our home now and we want to stay here. The continuing uncertainty associated with the extradition case has taken a heavy toll on our lives and the time has come to move on”.

“Accordingly”, they added, “we have reached an agreement with the New Zealand government and the United States Of America under which we have agreed to be charged in New Zealand for offences similar to those we face in the United States. Once those charges are heard by the New Zealand courts, the United States will withdraw its extradition proceedings against us”.

Dotcom said he was happy for Ortmann and Van Der Kolk, and about the news that they had reduced the potential impact of the ongoing criminal charges on their lives, even though he said they will now likely appear as witnesses for the prosecution. He isn’t willing to accept a similar deal, he added, although he said that the fact such a deal was on the table weakens the argument of the US authorities for forcing him into an American courtroom.

In a series of tweets, he wrote: “My co-defendants in the MegaUpload copyright case, Mathias and Bram, have made a deal with the US and New Zealand government to accept liability and to become witnesses against me. They will be charged in New Zealand and will no longer face extradition to the United States”.

“I want to congratulate my former friends and partners to have found a case resolution”, he added. “They can avoid the terrible US justice system. I’m happy for them. After ten years of US lawfare I understand why they have given up. I don’t blame them and I sincerely wish them all the best”.

“I’m now the last man standing in this fight”, he concluded, “and I will continue to fight because unlike my co-defendants I won’t accept the injustice we have been subjected to. If I have to go to jail for what MegaUpload users did on our site then many big tech CEOs are in the same boat with me”.

He then later returned to Twitter and stated: “My co-defendants don’t believe that they are criminals or members of an organised criminal group, they have said so repeatedly and that’s the truth. They made a deal of convenience and if they can have their case heard in New Zealand Courts so should I. A new portal has opened”.

“My legal team may try to have my case heard in New Zealand Courts too, with a jury of New Zealanders”, he went on. “The difference is I would never accept any charges and I will defend myself to clear my name. If New Zealand can decide the case of my co-defendants I should have the same right”.