The co-founder of Megaupload has been freed on bail by a judge in New Zealand. Mathias Ortmann will be the subject of strict conditions including no Internet access. The US will now rely on a United Nations treaty to extradite the Mega team. Separately, it was revealed that the FBI remotely monitored last month’s raids and congratulated New Zealand police on their work.
Following his arrest almost a month ago, the co-founder of the now-defunct Megaupload file-hosting service has finally been granted bail.
Mathias Ortmann was expected to be freed following a January 26th hearing but that was delayed when information collected by the authorities on his finances fell short of Ortmann’s own estimates.
According to the FBI, Ortmann made around $14.5 million from Megaupload between 2005 and 2010, and an additional $3 million in 2011. His accounts, however, showed a total of $20.2 million, some $3.5 million more.
This morning, concerns over the 40-year-old, who was previously described as a serious flight risk by Prosecutor Anne Toohey, were overcome.
Ortmann, from Germany, was released earlier today and will now join his co-accused Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato at the former’s Auckland home. Bail conditions for all three are strict and include a complete ban on Internet access.
Of those arrested in New Zealand following the raids in January, only Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom remains behind bars. He is due to appear in court next week.
In the meantime it has been revealed that US authorities intend to rely on a United Nations treaty aimed at combating international organized crime to extradite all the NZ-based members of the so-called “Mega Conspiracy” to the US.
While a lawyer working on behalf of the United States government admitted that no copyright offenses are specifically listed in the extradition treaty, he said that certain offenses which involve trans-national crime are covered by the country’s Extradition Act.
In New Zealand, crimes must carry a four year prison sentence to be deemed extraditable. Under the country’s Copyright Act, distributing an infringing work carries a five year maximum sentence. Nevertheless, some observers are predicting that due to its groundbreaking status, the extradition battle for the Megaupload defendants will be both complex and prolonged, and could even go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Separately, according to a report citing the latest issue of New Zealand Police’s ‘Ten One’ magazine, US authorities have congratulated local police on the raids they carried out last month.
“Feedback on the New Zealand operation has been extremely positive from our international law enforcement partners including the FBI and the US Department of Justice,” said Detective Superintendent Mike Pannett, who reportedly monitored events from the FBI’s command center in Washington.
As revealed last week, dozens of heavily armed police – some from elite anti-terrorist divisions – were used to arrest the operators of Megaupload in January.