Kim Dotcom Extradition Hearing to Proceed as Court Denies Appeal

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The extradition hearing for Kim Dotcom will go ahead on Sept. 21, 2015 after Dotcom and his co-defendants had their appeal denied by the Court of Appeal of New Zealand on Monday. Dotcom’s lawyers indicated to Ars Technica that they will begin the extradition hearing with a motion for stay on the grounds that the US Department of Justice is attempting to deny due process rights to Dotcom.

The upcoming extradition hearing is the tenth one scheduled since the early 2012 seizure of Dotcom’s Megaupload assets. Dotcom was initially charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, and money laundering, and two other copyright infringement charges. Eight more charges were subsequently added, but out of the 13 total charges, only the money laundering and racketeering charges are covered by the extradition treaty between New Zealand and the US.

Dotcom’s lawyers argued that, in the court’s words (via National Business Review), the US “advised that any monies paid by them to counsel or experts in the United States would be forfeit, and that receipt of such forfeit money would constitute a criminal offence in the United States. They claim they need the assistance of American lawyers and experts properly to defend the application for their extradition. The position advised by the United States means they are unable to retain American counsel or experts and thus to mount a proper defence.”

The Court of Appeal cited an earlier ruling that the “exceptional circumstances” necessary for “further interlocutory intervention,” and therefore delay, were not present. The ruling does not confirm or deny the truth of Dotcom’s legal team’s claims, but indicates that the matter is part of the extradition process, and should be raised at the scheduled hearing.

A potential further complication is that Dotcom becomes eligible for New Zealand citizenship on Nov. 29, when he will have been a permanent resident for the requisite 5 years.

The case for copyright infringement is likely much stronger than for the extradition-eligible offences of racketeering and money laundering, so the lengthy legal battle is being closely watched because of the precedent it could set.

The US is currently trying to have several other alleged cybercriminals extradited from abroad to face charges, including a man alleged to be the notorious Citadel Malware-as-a-Service vendor “Aquabox.”

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