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Dotcom case to stretch to next decade

David Fisher, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 2 November 2017, 6:58PM
Kim Dotcom posted this image to his Twitter account with the tag "Happy wife, happy life". He and fiance Elizabeth Donnelly are expected to marry this month.
Kim Dotcom posted this image to his Twitter account with the tag "Happy wife, happy life". He and fiance Elizabeth Donnelly are expected to marry this month.

At least two more years.

That's the minimum time frame for the Kim Dotcom extradition case, a Hong Kong court has been told.

The statement came during a hearing which saw details released of Dotcom's extravagant lifestyle, funded out of a Hong Kong trove of cash.

It means Dotcom is likely to be in New Zealand next decade and the process to extradite him to the United States will have dragged on for eight years.

The Hong Kong hearing saw Dotcom pitching for $1 million relocation costs to fund his move from Auckland to Queenstown.

The money was to pay two years rent in advance, at $40,000-a-month. That's an increase on the current $27,000-a-month allowed to be withdrawn from a seized pool of $50m held in Hong Kong.

Dotcom was also after $150,000 to pay for moving expenses and to have living expenses increased from $70,000-a-month to $73,000-a-month.

There was a further bid for a $200,000 "emergency fund" - that was to pay for "medical expenses of the family, car maintenance, household repairs and two holidays of the family".

It was during submissions by Gerard McCoy, Dotcom's lawyer in Hong Kong, that the length of the extradition process was raised as a reason for needing the funds.

"These proceedings could not be determined in the next two years," he said.

The pitch to the Hong Kong High Court was for greater access to the $50m seized when the FBI carried out worldwide raids to shut down filesharing site Megaupload in January 2012. Limited access had been granted earlier to meet expenses until the case is resolved.

The raid also led to Dotcom and three others being arrested in New Zealand. Dotcom and Megaupload programmer Bram van der Kolk had moved here as residents while lead programmer Mathias Ortmann and marketing whiz Finn Batato were visiting to celebrate Dotcom's birthday.

The New Zealand-based Megaupload accused - Bram van der Kolk, Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann and Finn Batato, outside the Auckland High Court.

Extradition proceedings began then, with the United States seeking to have the four men brought to face charges of criminal copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering in a United States court.

If convicted, they face decades in jail.

The case has dragged on for a number of reasons. Both sides have challenged preliminary rulings issued at lower courts, and Dotcom has made court challenges to the police raids.

The court process has also seen the actions of New Zealand public agencies placed under a microscope, with the Government Communications Security Bureau (GSCB) being found to have illegally spied on Dotcom and van der Kolk.

Life hasn't stood still for any of them - Dotcom has seen one marriage dissolve and is on the verge of another. He was expected to get married this month to Elizabeth Donnelly, the woman he started seeing after splitting with wife Mona Verga. He has recently posted images of the couple of Twitter, with the tag "Happy wife, happy life".

The move to Queenstown also went ahead, with Dotcom's five children also moving and starting school there.

Others have seen considerable change also. Lawyers acting for the prosecution and defence have been elevated to the High Court during the course of the proceeding.

Dotcom is now on to the third Minister of Justice since he was arrested - the person in government who faces making the decision on whether the extradition certificate should be granted.

The next step in the process for New Zealand is a hearing in the Court of Appeal in February. Whatever the outcome, either side is expected to seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Once that is complete, and should the extradition finding be upheld, it is down to the Minister of Justice to issue an order for extradition.

Even that is expected to face a challenge, with the High Court likely to be asked to rule on whether it was appropriately made.

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