20 Feb 2017

Court rules Dotcom eligible for extradition

7:11 pm on 20 February 2017

Internet mogul Kim Dotcom says a new court ruling has changed the whole premise of his extradition case.

The High Court has ruled that Kim Dotcom is eligible for extradition to the United States.

Kim Dotcom after a court appearance in Auckland in 2015.

Kim Dotcom after a court appearance in Auckland in 2015. Photo: AFP

In his decision released today, Justice Gilbert ruled that Mr Dotcom and his three co-accused - Bram Van der Kolk, Matthias Ortmann and Finn Batato - are eligible for surrender on all counts.

The US wants to extradite the men to face criminal charges of money-laundering and copyright breaches related to the defunct file-sharing website Megaupload.

The United States applied to extradite the four on 13 counts, saying they were involved in a worldwide criminal organisation that caused an estimated $US500 million loss to copyright holders.

Crown lawyers have argued on behalf of the US that Megaupload wilfully breached copyright on a huge scale by hosting illegally-created movie, music and software files.

Mr Dotcom's lawyers countered that Megaupload was set up as a legitimate file-storing site, and their client could not be held responsible for the illegal actions of some users.

But Mr Dotcom said because he could no longer be extradited under the Copyright Act of New Zealand, it was no longer a copyright case but a fraud case.

Mr Dotcom said the High Court overturned the district court decision that he could be extradited for copyright infringement.

"There are now two judgements that basically disagree with each other but we prefer this judgement much more because we believe in the next instant, in the Court of Appeal, we can show that the general fraud statutes cannot be applied to this case."

Mr Dotcom said his indictment was for copyright infringement.

"And under New Zealand law online infringement is not a criminal matter, it's only a civil matter, and this has been cleared today with this judgement."

Mr Dotcom said he disagreed with the part of the High Court ruling that said his case could be dealt with by the Crimes Act.

"The US Supreme Court has ruled that a criminal copyright charge cannot be replaced with a fraud charge, that is the US Supreme Court saying that, and New Zealand is basically going in the opposite direction."

Mr Dotcom said they want to make it clear to the Court of Appeal that it was not a fraud charge and that he was indicted for copyright infringement.

Court ruling 'extremely disappointing'

Barrister Ron Mansfield, one of Mr Dotcom's legal team, described the outcome as "extremely disappointing" saying the decision would now go to the Court of Appeal.

Mr Mansfield said while he was disappointed with the outcome, the ruling backed his argument that Mr Dotcom hadn't committed an offence under New Zealand copyright law.

He said he couldn't understand how the allegations had been massaged into a general fraud offence.

"His honour has determined that the type of copyright infringement alleged here is not a crime under our Copyright Act, but concluded that it could be dealt with as a crime under the Crimes Act - which we don't agree with."

Mr Mansfield said that meant extradition could take place under general allegations of fraud under the Crimes Act.

He said on extradition, the United States was able to select which evidence it put forward.

That made made it very difficult to address factually the allegations of the case so that Mr Dotcom's legal team was really only able to succeed on the basis of the law, he said.

Mr Mansfield said they still hoped to win on appeal.

"Because we can win on a point of law, that this is not an extradition offence that our country should be sending someone to the United States on."

The Ministry of Justice's website crashed, following the public release of the decision.

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