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, 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.
The U.S. branded Dotcom and his colleagues as “fugitives” and won their case. Dotcom’s legal team quickly appealed this verdict, but lost once more at the Fourth Circuit appeals court.
However, Dotcom is determined to regain access to his property and has now taken the case to the US Supreme Court. Together with the other defendants, he filed a petition to the Supreme Court to overturn the “fugitive disentitlement” ruling and the forfeiture of his assets.
The crux of the case is whether or not the District Court’s order to forfeit an estimated $67 million in assets was right. The defense argues that Dotcom and the other Megaupload defendants were wrongfully labeled as fugitives by the Department of Justice.
Dotcom’s legal team warns that, if the current verdict stands, the US Government can seize the assets of foreign nationals based on unproven claims.
“If left undisturbed, the Fourth Circuit’s decision enables the Government to obtain civil forfeiture of every penny of a foreign citizen’s foreign assets based on unproven allegations of the most novel, dubious United States crimes,” the Supreme Court petition reads.
“And the Government can do so without affording a foreign defendant any opportunity to challenge in court whether the foreign assets are traceable to criminal conduct, whether the Government’s allegations are sufficient to establish the charged crime, or even whether the charged ‘crime’ is a crime at all.”
The decision of the lower courts invites abuse according to Dotcom’s legal team, as it allows the Government to seize assets of people who have never been to the United States, seemingly with little evidence.
By taking on the case, the Supreme Court has the chance to clarify what the Government is permitted to do in such cases, something that isn’t entirely clear based on current case law.
“In sum, this case poses questions that have divided the lower courts and carry important implications for federal jurisdiction, constitutional law, statutory interpretation, civil procedure, and international relations,” Dotcom’s legal team writes.
If the US Supreme Court takes on the case, which has yet to be decided, Kim Dotcom has a chance to regain access to the million of dollars the authorities have taken from him.
The full petition is available here (pdf).