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US drops extradition of Megaupload defendant

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The Megaupload Four is now the Megaupload Three – the United States has dropped its extradition case against one of the defendants with a “life-threatening” medical condition.

Megaupload’s former marketing manager Finn Batato is no longer one of the suspects in a series of charges in the US copyright-related case.

It comes as the tenth anniversary of the January 2012 arrest of the Megaupload Four approaches with no extradition date set.

Reaching that point will take years of court debate, even as Justice Minister Kris Faafoi walks through the door opened by the Supreme Court last year and signs the extradition warrant.

That’s now the next step with the Court of Appeals ruling that resolves a slew of unresolved issues that posed a technical impediment to the Supreme Court’s finding last year that the extradition request had been properly filed.

It is expected that if he signs the extradition warrant, his decision to do so will be subject to judicial review by the High Court. Any outcome would likely be challenged by both sides, as nearly every decision has been.

The silencing of Batato’s extradition was signaled in a single line of the Court’s latest judgment. It told about the charges and the desired extradition of Kim Dotcom, Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann.

It then said: “Until recently, it also requested the extradition of Mr Batato, but is no longer doing so due to health concerns.”

A footnote to the court order states that on June 10 this year, Batato was “formally dismissed” by the court – where the extradition case was originally filed.

Batato declined to comment publicly about the illness at this stage when contacted. The Herald understands that the condition is “life-threatening”.

The judgment of the Court of Appeal was also bad news for the other three who challenged the extradition.

It ruled against Van der Kolk and Ortmann that they were allowed to adduce additional evidence, refused to enforce Dotcom’s privacy law requests in search of new evidence, and found that there were no issues raised in previous court reviews that had not been considered. .

According to the judgment of the Court of Appeals, the new evidence that Van der Kolk and Ortmann wanted to present came from a retired American judge and an American lawyer.

“The affidavits are intended to cast doubt on the strength of the United States’ case,” the verdict said, summarizing the evidence as a U.S. legal perspective on asset confiscation, the charges and “safe harbor” rules. for internet service providers.

The evidence was also intended to show how any evidence gathered by the US to support rendition actually supported the position of those faced with rendition.

Van der Kolk and Ortmann argued that the evidence was new “because they have so far been prevented from obtaining such evidence due to a lack of funding caused by the United States”. The appeals court disagreed, saying a Harvard law professor had made similar arguments when the case was heard in court.

It also said many of the arguments presented were those that should be heard at trial in the US. In contrast, the role of New Zealand courts was to determine whether there was sufficient evidence to warrant a trial in the US and not to investigate or decide deeper issues in the case.

The verdict means the case has completed its long, sometimes circular parade through New Zealand courts.

It’s a journey that began with a hearing on January 20, 2012, the day of the FBI-inspired police raid on the mansion that Dotcom had rented in Coatesville.

Within a month, the US case experienced its first disaster, ordering the Crown to reimburse any losses if the Dotcom case failed. This was ordered because the goods seized during the raid should not have been seized without prior notice.

When a legal review of the search warrants at the Supreme Court raised questions about why Dotcom and his fellow keyboard commanders had to be arrested during a morning raid in which New Zealand’s anti-terrorist squad attacked the mansion by helicopter.

Even worse for New Zealand’s contribution to the global Megaupload operation was the rise of the Government Communications Security Bureau, the formerly top-secret electronic espionage agency. It was found to have illegally spied on Dotcom and van der Kolk, who as residents of New Zealand were protected from burglary.

It took three years for the actual extradition hearing to reach the court, and then years for it to reach the Supreme Court in mid-2019. That decision took 18 months, and the fishhooks have now been resolved by the Court of Appeal.

Despite everything, Batato was the quietest of the accused. He did not have the resources others had to hire a lawyer, but instead argue his own case or take up legal arguments of others.

Batato had been good friends with Dotcom since he was a teenager. Unlike the others, Batato had no shares in the Megaupload and related sites. He joined in 2007 and left the post as general manager of the German office of Europe’s largest independent advertising agency.

Records show he was paid $630,000 in 2010 — the year the website boomed and the money started pouring in. That money was seized during the raids just over a year later and then paid out piecemeal under strict control to cover legal bills and living expenses.

While Dotcom had been socially awkward in his youth, Batato had always been outgoing and charming. It was this Dotcom who emphasized in an interview in 2013: “He has the best social skills. He is really good at his job when it comes to relationship management with advertisers and going to the trade shows, making a lot of friends and socially very competent.”

In an interview in 2015, Batato said his confiscated money would be gone within months. It caused Batato to work full-time – which he has been working on ever since – while Dotcom drew on a deeper reservoir of tightly controlled confiscated funds from Hong Kong. Meanwhile, Van der Kolk and Ortmann have taken the Mega-business launched in January 2013 to international success with 210 million users.

In that 2015 interview, Batato said the case is taking an unrelenting toll. “The constant pressure over your head – not knowing what’s coming is very hard, very hard. I wish there was a button that you can just press and the case disappears for a few days. It doesn’t” no matter how nice and fun the times are, it will always hang over you.”

The Megaupload Four had always maintained their innocence. “I would never have done anything semi-criminal or anything that would cause me legal trouble,” Batato said.

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