New Zealand Court rejects Kim Dotcom’s appeal against extradition to U.S.

German internet entrepreneur and founder of Megaupload Ltd., Kim Dotcom has lost another legal round after the New Zealand High Court ruled that he can be extradited to the U.S. over online piracy allegations linked to his now-defunct Megaupload web empire. The court said that while Dotcom’s alleged copyright offenses don’t warrant removal to the U.S., he can still be extradited for fraud.

Auckland High Court Judge Murray Gilbert upheld a District Court ruling that there was enough evidence to send Dotcom and his three co-accused, Mathias Ortmann, Bran van der Kolk and Finn Botato for trial in the U.S.

Since 2012, the U.S. has been seeking Dotcom’s extradition on 13 counts including conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, wire fraud and money laundering. He also carries a maximum of 20 years in jail.

“It’s a political case. It’s a political judgment,” Dotcom wrote on Twitter after the ruling and compared New Zealand’s legal system to “Sharia law.”

His legal team described the outcome as “extremely disappointing.”

While Judge Gilbert agreed with an argument put forward by Dotcom’s legal team that he couldn’t be extradited on copyright infringement grounds because the allegation against him is not a criminal offence in New Zealand, he said a conspiracy to commit copyright infringement amounted to conspiracy to defraud was an extradition offence under a treaty between New Zealand and the U.S.

“I agree with the district court judge that the evidence summarized in the record of the case is sufficient to establish a prima facie case on all counts. I also agree with his ultimate conclusion that the appellants are eligible for extradition on all counts for which their surrender is sought,” Judge Gilbert said in his 360-page judgment.

Ultimately, he found Dotcom and his co-accused were still eligible to surrender.

“I’m no longer getting extradited for Copyright. We won on that,” Dotcom tweeted after the ruling. “I’m now getting extradited for a law that doesn’t even apply.”

The U.S. has accused Dotcom and his associates of operating an “international organized criminal enterprise responsible for massive worldwide online piracy of copyrighted works.” They also accused them of racking up over $175 million in illegal profits and causing more than $500 million in harm to copyright holders. The U.S. Department of Justice shut down the site in January 2012 and seized approximately $50 million in assets.

Dotcom, who also goes by the name Kim Schmitz, has maintained his innocence and accused U.S. prosecutors of overreach. Dotcom’s lawyer Ron Mansfield said the decision meant the case was no longer the “largest criminal copyright case”.

“As we have said all along, there is no such offence under our Copyright Act. We were right.”

He said the final hurdle to overturning extradition will be determined by the Court of Appeal.

“We remain confident that this last point which would prevent extradition in this complex and unprecedented legal case, will be resolved in Kim’s favour in a manner consistent with parliament’s intent, international law and importantly, one might think, the United States’ own law,” Mr Mansfield said.