Tag Archives: Finn Batato

Kim Dotcom Begins New Fight to Avoid Extradition to United States

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-begins-new-fight-to-avoid-extradition-to-united-states-180212/

More than six years ago in January 2012, file-hosting site Megaupload was shut down by the United States government and founder Kim Dotcom and his associates were arrested in New Zealand.

What followed was an epic legal battle to extradite Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato, and Bram van der Kolk to the United States to face several counts including copyright infringement, racketeering, and money laundering. Dotcom has battled the US government every inch of the way.

The most significant matters include the validity of the search warrants used to raid Dotcom’s Coatesville home on January 20, 2012. Despite a prolonged trip through the legal system, in 2014 the Supreme Court dismissed Dotcom’s appeals that the search warrants weren’t valid.

In 2015, the District Court later ruled that Dotcom and his associates are eligible for extradition. A subsequent appeal to the High Court failed when in February 2017 – and despite a finding that communicating copyright-protected works to the public is not a criminal offense in New Zealand – a judge also ruled in favor.

Of course, Dotcom and his associates immediately filed appeals and today in the Court of Appeal in Wellington, their hearing got underway.

Lawyer Grant Illingworth, representing Van der Kolk and Ortmann, told the Court that the case had “gone off the rails” during the initial 10-week extradition hearing in 2015, arguing that the case had merited “meaningful” consideration by a judge, something which failed to happen.

“It all went wrong. It went absolutely, totally wrong,” Mr. Illingworth said. “We were not heard.”

As expected, Illingworth underlined the belief that under New Zealand law, a person may only be extradited for an offense that could be tried in a criminal court locally. His clients’ cases do not meet that standard, the lawyer argued.

Turning back the clocks more than six years, Illingworth again raised the thorny issue of the warrants used to authorize the raids on the Megaupload defendants.

It had previously been established that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service had illegally spied on Dotcom and his associates in the lead up to their arrests. However, that fact was not disclosed to the District Court judge who authorized the raids.

“We say that there was misleading conduct at this stage because there was no reference to the fact that information had been gathered illegally by the GCSB,” he said.

But according to Justice Forrest Miller, even if this defense argument holds up the High Court had already found there was a prima facie case to answer “with bells on”.

“The difficulty that you face here ultimately is whether the judicial process that has been followed in both of the courts below was meaningful, to use the Canadian standard,” Justice Miller said.

“You’re going to have to persuade us that what Justice Gilbert [in the High Court] ended up with, even assuming your interpretation of the legislation is correct, was wrong.”

Although the US seeks to extradite Dotcom and his associates on 13 charges, including racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, the Court of Appeal previously confirmed that extradition could be granted based on just some of the charges.

The stakes couldn’t be much higher. The FBI says that the “Megaupload Conspiracy” earned the quartet $175m and if extradited to the US, they could face decades in jail.

While Dotcom was not in court today, he has been active on Twitter.

“The court process went ‘off the rails’ when the only copyright expert Judge in NZ was >removed< from my case and replaced by a non-tech Judge who asked if Mega was ‘cow storage’. He then simply copy/pasted 85% of the US submissions into his judgment," Dotcom wrote.

Dotcom also appeared to question the suitability of judges at both the High Court and Court of Appeal for the task in hand.

“Justice Miller and Justice Gilbert (he wrote that High Court judgment) were business partners at the law firm Chapman Tripp which represents the Hollywood Studios in my case. Both Judges are now at the Court of Appeal. Gilbert was promoted shortly after ruling against me,” Dotcom added.

Dotcom is currently suing the New Zealand government for billions of dollars in damages over the warrant which triggered his arrest and the demise of Megaupload.

The hearing is expected to last up to two-and-a-half weeks.

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Kim Dotcom Asks Court For $829K to Fund Family Expenses

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/kim-dotcom-asks-court-for-829k-to-fund-family-expenses-171102/

When Megaupload was shut down in January 2012, US authorities did everything within their power to financially ruin Kim Dotcom and his associates.

Aside from taking much of his personal property, tens of millions of dollars of assets were seized around the world.

Under instruction from the U.S. government, US$42.57m in assets were seized in Hong Kong and since then Dotcom has been trying to claw it back, bit by bit.

Back in July, Dotcom revealed that the Hong Kong High Court had released more of his funds, plus four containers of seized property. Noting that he missed the country, he gave thanks for the lifeline.

“Thanks to a Hong Kong Judge my family can move to Queenstown and my kids will be surrounded by beautiful mountains & lakes instead of spies,” Dotcom said.

That move eventually went ahead, with Dotcom regularly tweeting beautiful waterside views from his new home over the past few months. But of course, nice things tend to cost quite a bit of money, so Dotcom’s legal team have been working hard in Hong Kong to have more funds released.

According to a report from NZHerald, his latest request is fairly sizeable, reaching NZ$1.2m (US$829,400), everything considered.

First up, Dotcom is seeking around NZ$1m (US$691,200) for costs relating to his relocation from Auckland to Queenstown. That’s comprised of two years worth of rent at NZ$40,000 (US$27,648) per month (no typo), plus NZ$150,000 (US$103,680) to cover the actual cost of the move.

On top, Dotcom is looking for NZ$73,000 (US$50,457) per month for living expenses, an amount that’s roughly US$2,000 per month up on the amount he currently receives.

According to the report, Dotcom’s team are also proposing a further amount of NZ$200,000 (US$138,240) to cover emergency items including “medical expenses of the family, car maintenance, household repairs and two holidays of the family”.

It seems unlikely that this will be the final request from Dotcom. According to Gerard McCoy, Dotcom’s lawyer in Hong Kong, the extradition process in New Zealand is nowhere near complete. In fact, McCoy told the court that proceedings won’t be completed during the next two years.

That takes us to 2020, at least, meaning that Dotcom will still be in New Zealand a full eight years after the raid. Given the massive number of court battles and subsequent appeals into every detail of several resulting cases, that’s probably not a surprise, however.

The progress in the extradition process itself is also somewhat glacial, with the next hearing set for the first quarter of 2018 in the Court of Appeal. If past experience is anything to go by, neither side will be happy with the outcome. This means that an appeal to the Supreme Court is almost inevitable.

Over in the United States, progress has also been slow. Recently, a petition from Dotcom and his former Megaupload colleagues over millions of dollars in seized assets was denied by the US Supreme Court.

While this decision means that the battle over a further US$67 million in assets has been exhausted, the question of whether Dotcom and former colleagues Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato will ever stand trial in the US remains unanswered.

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Entire Kim Dotcom Spying Operation Was Illegal, High Court Rules

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/entire-kim-dotcom-spying-operation-was-illegal-high-court-rules-170825/

In the months that preceded the January 2012 raid on file-storage site Megaupload, authorities in New Zealand used the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) spy agency to monitor Kim and Mona Dotcom, plus Megaupload co-defendant Bram van der Kolk.

When this fact was revealed it developed into a crisis. The GCSB was forbidden by law from conducting surveillance on its own citizens or permanent residents in the country, which led to former Prime Minister John Key later apologizing for the error.

With Dotcom determined to uncover the truth, the entrepreneur launched legal action in pursuit of the information illegally obtained by GCSB and to obtain compensation. In July, the High Court determined that Dotcom wouldn’t get access to the information but it also revealed that the scope of the spying went on much longer than previously admitted, a fact later confirmed by the police.

This raised the specter that not only did the GCSB continue to spy on Dotcom after it knew it was acting illegally, but that an earlier affidavit from a GCSB staff member was suspect.

With the saga continuing to drag on, revelations published in New Zealand this morning indicate that not only was the spying on Dotcom illegal, the entire spying operation – which included his Megaupload co-defendants – was too.

The reports are based on documents released by Lawyer Peter Spring, who is acting for Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann. Spring says that the High Court decision, which dates back to December but has only just been made available, shows that “the whole surveillance operation fell outside the authorization of the GCSB legislation as it was at the relevant time”.

Since Dotcom is a permanent resident of New Zealand, it’s long been established that the GCSB acted illegally when it spied on him. As foreigners, however, Megaupload co-defendants Finn Batato and Mathias Ortmann were previously considered valid surveillance targets.

It now transpires that the GCSB wasn’t prepared to mount a defense or reveal its methods concerning their surveillance, something which boosted the case against it.

“The circumstances of the interceptions of Messrs Ortmann and Batato’s communications are Top Secret and it has not proved possible to plead to the allegations the plaintiffs have made without revealing information which would jeopardize the national security of New Zealand,” the Court documents read.

“As a result the GCSB is deemed to have admitted the allegations in the statement of claim which relate to the manner in which the interceptions were effected.”

Speaking with RadioNZ, Grant Illingworth, a lawyer representing Ortmann and van der Kolk, said the decision calls the entire GCSB operation into doubt.

“The GCSB has now admitted that the unlawfulness was not just dependent upon residency issues, it went further. The reason it went further was because it didn’t have authorization to carry out the kind of surveillance that it was carrying out under the legislation, as it was at that time,” Illingworth said.

In comments to NZHerald, Illingworth added that the decision meant that the damages case for Ortmann and van der Kolk had come to an end. He refused to respond to questions of whether damages had been paid or a settlement reached.

He did indicate, however, that there could be implications for the battle underway to have Dotcom, Batato, Ortmann and van der Kolk extradited to the United States.

“If there was illegality in the arrest and search phase and that illegality has not previously been made known in the extradition context then it could be relevant to the extradition,” Illingworth said.

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Megaupload Case Takes Toll on Finn Batato, But He’ll Keep Fighting

Post Syndicated from Andy original https://torrentfreak.com/megaupload-case-takes-toll-on-finn-batato-but-hell-keep-fighting-170227/

Whenever there’s a new headline about the years-long prosecution of Megaupload, it is usually Kim Dotcom’s image adorning publications around the world. In many ways, the German-born entrepreneur is the face of the United States’ case against the defunct storage site, and he appears to like it that way.

Thanks to his continuous presence on Twitter, regular appearances in the media, alongside promotion of new file-sharing platforms, one might be forgiven for thinking Dotcom was fighting the US single-handedly. But quietly and very much in the background, three other men are also battling for their freedom.

Megaupload programmers Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk face a similar fate to Dotcom but have stayed almost completely silent since their arrests in 2012. Former site advertising manager Finn Batato, whose name headlines the entire case (US v. Finn Batato) has been a little more vocal though, and from recent comments we learn that the US prosecution is taking its toll.

Seven years ago before the raid, Batato was riding the crest of a wave as Megaupload’s CMO. According to the FBI he pocketed $630,000 in 2010 and was regularly seen out with Dotcom having fun, racing around the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife track with Formula 1 star Kimi Raikkonen, for example. But things are different now.

Finn with Kimi Raikkonen

While still involved with Mega, the new file-sharing site that Dotcom founded and then left after what appears to be an acrimonious split, Batato is reportedly feeling the pressure. In a new interview with Newshub, the marketing expert says that his marriage is on the rocks, a direct result of the US case against him.

According to Batato, he’s now living in someone else’s house, something he hasn’t done “for 25 years.” It’s a far cry from the waterside luxury being enjoyed by Dotcom.

Batato met wife Anastasia back in 2012, not long after the raid and while he was still under house arrest. The pair married in 2015 and have two children, Leo and Oskar.

“The constant pressure over your head – not knowing what is there to come, is very hard, very tough,” Batato said in an earlier interview with NZHerald.

“Everything that happens in our life happens with that big black cloud over our heads which especially has an impact on me and my mood because I can’t just switch it off. If everything goes down the hill, maybe I will see [my sons] once every month in a prison cell. That breaks my heart. I can’t enjoy it as much as I would want to. It’s highly stressful.”

Since then, Batato has been busy. While working as Mega’s Chief Marketing Officer, the German citizen has been learning about the law. He’s had to. Unlike Dotcom who can retain the best lawyers in the game, Batato says he has few resources.

What savings he had were seized on the orders of the United States in Hong Kong back in 2012, and he previously admitted to having to check his bank account before buying groceries. As a result he’s been conducting his own legal defense for almost two years.

In 2015 he reportedly received praise while doing so, with lawyers appearing for his co-defendants commending him when he stood up to argue a point during a Megaupload hearing. “I was kind of proud about that,” he said.

Like Dotcom (with whom he claims to be on “good terms”), Batato insists that he’s done nothing wrong. He shares his former colleague’s optimism that he won’t be extradited and will take his case to the Supreme Court, should all else fail.

That may be necessary. Last week, the New Zealand High Court determined that Batato and his co-defendants can be extradited to the US, albeit not on copyright grounds. Justice Murray Gilbert agreed with the US Government’s position that their case has fraud at its core, an extraditable offense.

In the short term, the case is expected to move to the Court of Appeal and, depending on the outcome there, potentially to the Supreme Court. Either way, this case still has years to run with plenty more legal appearances for Batato. He won’t be doing it with the legal backup enjoyed by Dotcom but he’ll share his determination.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and ANONYMOUS VPN services.