Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom Wednesday made the Department of Justice an offer he hopes it can't refuse: He'll drop his resistance to the extradition request filed by U.S. authorities with the New Zealand government, provided that prosecutors agree to a few simple demands.
"Hey DOJ, we will go to the U.S.," said Dotcom Wednesday via his Twitter account. "No need for extradition. We want bail, funds unfrozen for lawyers & living expenses."
The offer of a deal from German national Dotcom--formerly known as Kim Schmitz, and Kim Tim Jim Vestor--comes as his legal fees continue to mount. To date, he's retained 22 lawyers in multiple countries to work on the case. The related legal costs have totaled millions of dollars and have been exacerbated by delays in his extradition hearing, with a New Zealand court Tuesday saying that the next hearing into the extradition request would be delayed from next month to next year.
[ For more on the Megaupload case, see Kim Dotcom Gets Access To FBI's Megaupload Documents. ]
Prosecutors have accused Dotcom and other employees of the file-sharing website Megaupload--which at its peak accounted for 4% of all Internet traffic--with having earned $175 million via a campaign of copyright infringement, including related subscription fees and advertising revenue. After unsealing the related indictment in January, prosecutors issued arrest warrants and froze Dotcom's assets around the world.
"I have accumulated millions of dollars in legal bills and I haven't been able to pay a single cent. They just want to hang me out to dry and wait until there is no support left," Dotcom told The New Zealand Herald.
But if the United States agrees to a fair trial for all the Megaupload accused and also agrees to unfreeze funds and allow Dotcom to pay their legal bills and living expenses, he said he'd willingly travel to the United States to stand trial on the charges.
Dotcom and his Megaupload co-defendants--Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann, and Bram van der Kolk--have denied any wrongdoing.
Despite his offer, however, Dotcom doesn't expect U.S. authorities to take him up on the offer. "Considering the way the U.S. government has conducted their case and the way I was treated, I never expect to get a fair trial in the United States," Dotcom told the Guardian. "We are not expecting to hear back regarding the offer and I remain committed to fighting extradition in New Zealand."
Dotcom's case has hit some notable legal tangles since he was arrested in January. For starters, New Zealand will extradite someone only if they face charges that carry at least a five-year jail sentence under the country's laws. But as the maximum penalty for copyright infringement is just four years, U.S. prosecutors had to beef up their charges against Dotcom by accusing him of criminal racketeering--normally reserved for mob cases involving drugs or gambling--which in New Zealand carry a five-year maximum sentence. But legal experts said that charge puts the case on shaky legal ground.
Furthermore, New Zealand judge David Harvey ruled that the manner in which investigators had seized evidence against Dotcom--namely, cloning 17 hard drives and sending them to the United States--had left him unable to defend himself. He ordered the FBI and New Zealand prosecutors to share copies of all evidence from the seized drives that they planned to use to prove the charges against Dotcom and his co-defendants. New Zealand's high court is now reviewing Harvey's ruling. If it's upheld, New Zealand prosecutors said they'll appeal, and potentially even take the ruling to the country's Supreme Court.
But prosecutors are also awaiting a high court ruling related to the search warrants executed in the case, which were later ruled invalid. As a result of this ruling, the New Zealand police search and seizure of Megaupload property was illegal, although what remedies might be made as a result remains to be determined by the country's high court, reported the The New Zealand Herald.
Dotcom said all those delays didn't represent a victory for the Megaupload defendants, but rather an extended punishment. "People might think it's good news," he told the Guardian. "But it's not. Justice delayed is justice denied. And that's the foul game the U.S. government is playing. They have terminated my business without a trial. They have frozen my assets without a hearing."
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