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.
Dotcom then petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear the case.
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 held that Dotcom and the other Megaupload defendants were wrongfully labeled as fugitives by the Department of Justice, and wanted the ruling overturned.
The Supreme Court, however, decided not to hear the case, it announced today. The news comes as a setback to Megaupload’s legal team, who had hoped for a better outcome.
“We are disappointed in the US Supreme Court’s denial of the Cert Petition – it is a bad day for due process and international treaties,” Ira Rothken, Kim Dotcom’s counsel, informs TorrentFreak.
“Kim Dotcom has never been to the United States, is presumed innocent, and is lawfully opposing extradition under the US – New Zealand Treaty – yet the US by merely labeling him as a fugitive gets a judgment to take all of his assets with no due process.”
The Supreme Court’s decision not to hear the case doesn’t mean that the assets are all lost. Many of the funds are located abroad in New Zealand and Hong Kong, and the defense will now focus its efforts on these jurisdictions.
“The New Zealand and Hong Kong courts, who have authority over the assets, will now need to weigh in on this issue and we are cautiously optimistic that they will take a dim view of the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine and oppose US efforts to seize such assets,” Rothken says.
The actions of the US Department of Justice violate the prohibition against double jeopardy in the US – New Zealand extradition process, Dotcom’s legal team argues.
With the assets forfeiture, the Megaupload defendants have now been punished for the copyright infringement allegations in the indictment. On top of this they risk a possible extradition to face a second punishment in the US, which places the defendants in double jeopardy, Rothken explains.
So, while the legal options in the United States have run out, the seized assets battle is far from over.