In a victory for the United States in its effort to extradite accused internet pirate Kim Dotcom, the New Zealand Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court ruling that would have required that Washington provide extensive trial evidence before proceeding with any extradition.
Instead the appellate court ruled Friday that the U.S. has to provide only a summary of the evidence that Dotcom and three other defendants pirated Hollywood movies and TV shows to demonstrate it has a prima facie case to proceed with the extradition.
The judges said the full range of protections and disclousres required in New Zealand criminal law cases don't apply to an extradition hearing.
The decision sets the stage for a contested extradition hearing in New Zealand that could run several weeks. But the ruling is seen by experts as making the prospect of extradition much more likely. The trial, slated for Alexandria, Va., has been on hold pending New Zealand's ruling on the U.S. request for the extraditions.
Dotcom and the defendants, who operated Megaupload, were charged in January 2012 by the U.S. Justice Department with operating a criminal enterprise that trafficked in pirated material in a $500 million theft of intellectual property that represents one of the biggest intellectual property cases the U.S. has ever brought.
Dotcom was arrested in a raid on his barricaded New Zealand mansion that included lawmen rappelling from helicopters. He was found holding a gun in a locked room.
Dotcom mocked the raid when he recently opened a new Mega website.
The Megaupload owners each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering, five years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit copyright infringement, 20 years in prison on the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering and five years in prison on each of the substantive charges of criminal copyright infringement.
The indictment alleged that the criminal enterprise was led by Dotcom, Megaupload's founder.