A New Zealand judge ruled Wednesday Internet mogul Kim Dotcom can be extradited to the United States where he is wanted on money laundering, racketeering and breach of copyright charges.
After a nine-week hearing Judge Nevin Dawson found there was “overwhelming” evidence to support the move, ending a four-year battle by Dotcom and three other Megaupload founders to avoid the fate.
Dotcom, 41, told reporters when he arrived at Auckland’s North Shore District Court to hear the verdict: “It’s Christmas. Let’s see what Santa has in store.”
He had previously indicated he would fight any decision that went against him and New Zealand Justice Minister Amy Adams, who will have to approve any extradition, said she would wait to see if the ruling was appealed.
“If it is not then I will need to consider the court’s determination and receive advice from the Ministry of Justice on the relevant issues under the Extradition Act,” she said.
“As the court’s decision may be appealed, it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this time.”
The judge said Megaupload at its peak was the 13th most popular site on the Internet, accounting for four percent of all online traffic.
In 2010, it is estimated Dotcom earned US$42 million, his co-accused Mathias Ortmann US$9m, Bram van der Kolk $US2m and Finn Batato US$400,000.
Dotcom, who was arrested in a dramatic police raid on his mansion north of Auckland in January 2012, has denied all charges.
If extradited and found guilty by a US court he faces up to 20 years in jail.
US authorities allege the now defunct Megaupload file-sharing site netted US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners at least US$500 million by offering pirated content.
Dotcom argued Megaupload was a genuine file-sharing site which did its best to police copyright infringement but had 50 million daily users and could not control every aspect of their activity.
The German national has accused US authorities of pursuing a vendetta against him on behalf of politically influential Hollywood studios.
He has permanent residency in New Zealand under a government visa scheme for wealthy migrants.