The New Zealand judge who freed Megaupload.com founder Kim Dotcom from jail in February will oversee a U.S. request for his extradition after the presiding official quit for having criticized U.S. copyright rules.
New Zealand District Judge Nevin Dawson was named yesterday to replace David Harvey, Neil Billington, a spokesman at the court, said today in an e-mail. Harvey stepped down after telling a public conference on July 12 the U.S. was New Zealand’s “enemy” on copyright issues.
“He recognizes that remarks made in the context of a paper he delivered on copyright law at a recent Internet conference could reflect on his impartiality and that the appropriate response is for him to step down,” the court’s Chief Judge Jan- Marie Doogue said in response to an inquiry yesterday, according to Billington.
Dotcom, 38, is wanted in the U.S. on charges he orchestrated the biggest copyright infringement conspiracy in that country’s history with his Megaupload file-sharing website generating more than $175 million in criminal proceeds from the exchange of pirated film, music, book and software files. An extradition hearing has been tentatively scheduled for March 25.
Paul Davison, Dotcom’s New Zealand lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
Dotcom’s U.S. lawyer Ira Rothken yesterday in a filing in Virginia federal court urged the judge to throw out the government’s case, saying Megaupload wasn’t properly notified of the charges, by being served.
“Requirement of proper service stands as a jurisdictional hurdle” for the government, Rothken wrote. “Until the government clears this hurdle” according to the law, “dismissal is required,” he wrote.
U.S. District Judge Liam O’Grady hasn’t ruled on Dotcom’s request.
Harvey stepped down from the New Zealand case after his comments at a Trans-Pacific Partnership conference were widely reported in the media.
“We have meet the enemy and he is U.S.,” Harvey said, according to Time magazine, one of a number of publications to have reported the statement. Harvey was remarking that while it is currently legal in New Zealand to strip off the region protection on DVDs, which ordinarily prevent the discs from being shown in foreign markets, an 11-nation trade agreement currently being negotiated would make it illegal, as is the case in the U.S., Time said.
German-born Dotcom was arrested at his residence in late January. When police raided the mansion in the Auckland suburb of Coatesville they seized 18 luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe and a 1959 pink Cadillac.
Dotcom spent four weeks in jail before Dawson allowed his release on bail, restricting him to his rented NZ$30 million ($24 million) home in an Auckland suburb.
“A suspicion based only on the knowledge that the applicant is very wealthy is not enough” to deny bail, Dawson wrote in his Feb. 22 ruling. Dawson concluded Dotcom wasn’t a flight risk.
Helen Winkelmann, the chief justice of the High Court of New Zealand, which is an intermediate court, ruled on June 28 that warrants used by police to search Dotcom’s home and seize his property were overly broad and invalid.
Dotcom was indicted in the U.S. on charges including conspiracy to commit racketeering, conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The racketeering and money laundering charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The New Zealand case is between Kim Dotcom and Attorney- General. Civ 2012-404-1928. High Court of New Zealand (Auckland). The U.S. case is United States of America v. Kim Dotcom. 1:12- cr-00003. U.S. District Court Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria).
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