This week the United States government continued its three-year-long effort to have Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk extradited to face multiple charges including copyright infringement, conspiracy, money laundering and racketeering.
For the past several days the main extradition hearing has been hold to allow Judge Nevin Dawson to hear applications from the men detailing why the full hearing should be delayed or even stayed indefinitely.
For someone who has often been associated with great wealth, it’s ironic that much of the argument this week has centered around Dotcom’s poor financial situation.
Dotcom took the stand for the first time yesterday, explaining how in 2013 he’d sold his shares in Megaupload follow-up Mega for around $13m in order to fund his defense and then-fledgling Internet Party. After various grabs by Hollywood on his funds and other living expenses, little now remains.
However, simple lack of funds is not the only obstacle faced by Dotcom. Thanks to an ongoing U.S.-ordered freeze on the Megaupload defendants’ funds, any money freed to retain experts in the U.S. would be immediately seized. This means that appropriate experts cannot be hired and as a result the men are being denied a fair extradition hearing.
According to Dotcom’s lead lawyer, U.S.-based Ira Rothken, around $500,000 is needed to recruit U.S. experts in mass data storage and related technologies. However, even if that money was released it would take up to six months to prepare the experts to give evidence. Additional funds and time are needed, he argued.
But this morning in the North Shore District Court, Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon QC said that the Megaupload defendants actually need neither. Arguing on behalf of the United States, Gordon said that no amount of time and technical expertise could undo the incriminating Skype and email correspondence presented earlier in the hearing.
One such discussion, between Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, had the latter claiming that Megaupload’s growth was “mainly based on infringement anyway.”
The former operators of Megaupload believe that engaging a cloud storage expert would help their case but Gordon said that after paying known copyright infringers to upload illegal content, any testimony would be useless.
“No evidence about what other storage sites do destroys the evidence of what these individuals did and what they acknowledged to each other,” she said.
“[A stay is] only justified in the clearest of cases, and this is not such a case.”
The hearing is set to continue next week. If a stay is not granted and Dotcom and colleagues are extradited and subsequently found guilty in the U.S., they face the possibility of decades in prison.