Kim Dotcom Extradition Hearing Begins in New Zealand

2012-26 REP Kim Dotcom H

The Megaupload founder may have to go to the U.S. to face criminal charges.

Kim Dotcom, the Germany-born founder of file-sharing website Megaupload, appeared in a court in Auckland, New Zealand, on Monday for the first day of his long-delayed extradition hearing.

The FBI is seeking the extradition of Dotcom, now a New Zealand resident, to the U.S. on charges of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering, stemming from his Megaupload business, which was shut down by U.S authorities after Dotcom’s dramatic arrest in 2012. The business had reportedly netted Dotcom and his associates $175 million.

The extradition proceedings start after three years of legal wrangling, two supreme court cases and 10 delays in the proceedings, the most recent of which was earlier this month when Dotcom made a last-ditch bid to the court of appeal to have the extradition hearing postponed again.

According to local reports, Monday's District Court hearing was attended by a sea of lawyers and reporters, as well as Dotcom supporters.

“This case is not just about me. This case is about how much control we allow US corporations and the US government to have over the Internet," Dotcom said on Twitter ahead of the hearing. “The judges on this case can become the champions for billions of Internet users or a handful of US content billionaires. #Hope."

Dotcom’s colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk also are facing extradition.

The case, which is expected to last around four weeks, will not determine if the four are guilty, but only whether they should face the charges brought by the FBI in what it has called the "Mega conspiracy" in the U.S.

Dotcom argues that his defense has been hamstrung by his inability to access assets, which have been frozen and which the U.S. government is trying to seize on the basis that Dotcom is a "fugitive."