Following the 2012 raid on Megaupload and Kim Dotcom, U.S. and New Zealand authorities seized millions of dollars in cash and other property.
Claiming the assets were obtained through copyright and money laundering crimes, last July the U.S. government launched a separate civil action in which it asked the court to forfeit the bank accounts, cars and other seized possessions of the Megaupload defendants.
Megaupload’s defense heavily protested the request but was found to have no standing, as Dotcom and his colleagues were branded “fugitives”.
Earlier this year District Court Judge Liam O’Grady ordered a default judgment in favor of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). As a result the contested assets, which are worth an estimated $67 million, now belong to the United States.
Today Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload co-defendants appealed this decision at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. In their opening brief (pdf) Megaupload’s lawyers argue that the court denied the defendants’ basic rights and violated due process.
“The recent filing demonstrates again how the entire Megaupload case is build on quicksand. It’s a slap in the face of the DOJ and the Judge they picked for his Disney CV,” Dotcom tells TF in a comment.
In particular, the appeal filing points out that it was wrong to rely on the ‘fugitive disentitlement‘ doctrine, as Dotcom and his former colleagues were merely exercising their legal right to defend themselves.
“The Megaupload defendants were branded by the DOJ as ‘fugitives’ for lawfully fighting extradition in New Zealand,” Megaupload Appellate Counsel Michael Elkin notes.
“The district court’s denial of their basic rights to defend against asset forfeiture under a ‘fugitive disentitlement’ doctrine amounts to a violation of basic due process,” he adds.
Ira Rothken, Kim Dotcom’s Lead Global Counsel, emphasizes the injustice of the District Court decision and reiterates that his client has never even set a foot on U.S. soil.
“With our appeal today we are asking the Fourth Circuit to rule in favor of fairness, natural justice, and due process by stopping US efforts to take Kim Dotcom’s global assets for doing nothing more than lawfully opposing extradition to the United States—a country he has never been to,” he says.
According to Rothken the U.S. went after the millions in assets to obstruct other legal proceedings, including the extradition case which will be heard in New Zealand later this year.
“The DOJ in our view is trying to abuse the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine by modifying it into an offensive weapon of asset forfeiture to punish those who fight extradition under lawful treaties, and a provocation for international discord. Today we ask the Court of Appeals for justice.”
The 79-page opening brief concludes with a stark warning.
If the District Court decision is upheld it would give the government unprecedented power, allowing it to indict foreigners and grab their assets without looking into the merits of the case.
“That is not how our justice system works. The judgments below should be vacated and the case either dismissed or remanded for trial on the merits,” Megaupload’s lawyers conclude.
Dotcom is glad to see that the appeal is finally underway and points out that Megaupload was taken down by corrupt forces in the U.S. Government.
“They did not have the right to take billions of files from millions of Megaupload users offline. But a corrupt Senator (Chris Dodd), his best buddy (Joe Biden) and Biden’s sock puppet attorney at the DOJ (Neil MacBride) did it anyway,” Dotcom says.