Dotcom awaits extradition hearing

Kim Dotcom, aka Kim Schmitz, the founder of file storage and sharing website Megaupload, will be held in custody by New Zealand until Feb. 22 as he awaits an extradition hearing to determine whether he will be turned over to U.S. authorities to face money laundering and copyright infringement charges.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Jan. 19 said they had shut down the site and charged seven individuals and two corporations — Megaupload and Vestors Limited — with running an international criminal enterprise allegedly responsible for online piracy.

During a bail hearing in the New Zealand court, Dotcom said he was not guilty of the criminal piracy charges he faces in the United States, the reports said. Dotcom was denied bail.

Dotcom, the companies and six other people were indicted Jan. 5 by a grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia and charged with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two counts of substantive criminal copyright infringement.

Dotcom and the others face 50 years in prison if found guilty and sentenced to consecutive sentences for the offenses.

During the bail hearing, the New Zealand prosecutor argued that Dotcom should be denied bail because he is an extreme flight risk. Dotcom’s attorney countered, saying his client has been cooperative with authorities and that his passport has been seized and funds frozen, the reports said.

According to the Justice Department, Dotcom, a German national, is being charged along with:
Finn Batato, 38, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the chief marketing officer;
Julius Bencko, 35, a citizen and resident of Slovakia, who is the graphic designer;
Sven Echternach, 39, a citizen and resident of Germany, who is the head of business development;
Mathias Ortmann, 40, a citizen of Germany and resident of both Germany and Hong Kong, who is the chief technical officer, co-founder and director;
Andrus Nomm, 32, a citizen of Estonia and resident of both Turkey and Estonia, who is a software programmer and head of the development software division;
Bram van der Kolk, aka Bramos, 29, a Dutch citizen and resident of both the Netherlands and New Zealand, who oversees programming and the underlying network structure for the websites.

Last week, shortly after the Justice Department announced the charges and closed Megaupload, Internet hacker group Anonymous launched in retaliation what it described as the largest-ever attack on government and media industry websites. The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack took down the websites of the Justice Department, Universal Music Group, the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America.

Phil Kurz is a contributing editor to TV Tech. He has written about TV and video technology for more than 30 years and served as editor of three leading industry magazines. He earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.