Kim Dotcom’s oft-delayed extradition hearing is slated to begin on Monday, nearly three years and 10 months since the infamous raid of Dotcom’s New Zealand mansion. Over that time span, Dotcom’s legal team has managed to drag out the affair through 10 extradition hearing delays and various other legal maneuvering. And according to some number crunching from the New Zealand Herald (confirmed by the Crown Law Office, the NZ prosecutors representing the US there), Dotcom’s trials and tribulations have cost NZ taxpayers nearly NZ$5.8 million in legal fees (or approximately $3.7 million).
An extradition hearing is set for June 2015. Based on history, don’t hold your breath.
The total cost is just one of the eye-dropping Dotcom-related numbers the Herald outlined this weekend. To start, it’s been 1337 total days since the raid. And in total, 29,344 hours of legal work has been made possible through taxpayer investments; two-thirds of those hours have gone specifically towards the extradition request according to the paper. With the base rate for Crown solicitors set at NZ$198/hour, the Herald puts the current cost at the NZ$5.8 million figure above. Dotcom took to Twitter to note that such a calculation means NZ has spent almost the equivalent of half of its 2014 budget for Crown prosecutions on Dotcom alone. (In contrast, the Herald reports Dotcom has spent an estimated NZ$10 million, roughly $6.4M, on his defense.)
Dotcom still faces over a dozen American criminal charges of copyright infringement, racketeering, wire fraud, and money laundering. There’s also a civil case brought in April 2014 by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and US prosecutors brought a July 2014 civil forfeiture case. In total, American authorities allege that the “Mega Conspiracy…generated more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and caused more than half a billion dollars in harm to copyright owners.” But of these charges, only two offenses fall under the extradition treaty between the United States and New Zealand—racketeering and money laundering.
For his part, Dotcom has long maintained that Megaupload was no different from any other cloud storage firm, like Google or Dropbox, and that he made good faith efforts to remove infringing content. While Dotcom’s legal team is preparing for Monday’s hearing as if it will go on as planned, they told Ars this week they are still considering possible options to delay things further.
“We are in the process of preparing for the September 21st extradition hearing,” Ira Rothken, Dotcom’s lead global counsel, told Ars.”But the motion for stay is being raised with the District Court on day one of the extradition hearing. We believe the [United States Department of Justice] is acting in a manner to deny due process in New Zealand and we are hopeful the court will decide the stay matter as a threshold issue. The DOJ is clearly concerned about the weakness of their case and what these experts have to say in order to resort to such procedural game playing to prevent their testimony.”
In short, Dotcom’s side argues that seized assets held by the United States prevented them from mounting an adequate extradition offense. The Dotcom legal team has submitted more than 3,000 pages of supporting documentation to argue that in order to even be considered for extradition, there must be clear evidence that an extraditable offense was committed. Copyright infringement does not currently constitute such an offense.
In a related happening this week, Harvard legal scholar and presidential candidate Lawrence Lessig submitted his opinion to the courts on this extradition case, stating there are no legal grounds for the US to extradite Dotcom.