The Supreme Court has refused to hear the civil forfeiture case of Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom.
Ars Technica reports that Kim Dotcom’s civil forfeiture case will not be heard before the Supreme Court. Dotcom brought the civil forfeiture case 18 months after criminal charges were brought against the Megaupload founder relating to alleged copyright infringement. Items seized from Dotcom allegedly include “millions of dollars in various seized bank accounts in Hong Kong and New Zealand, the Dotcom mansion, several luxury cars, four jet skis, two 108-inch TVs, three 82-inch TVs, a $10,000 watch, and a photograph by Olaf Mueller worth over $100,000.”
Dotcom initially challenged the asset seizure, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in August 2016 argued that because he had never come to the United States to face the criminal charges brought against him, “fugitive disentitlement” did not apply. This is the legal theory that states that when defendant flees a country, he or she cannot make a claim to the assets that the government has seized.
The Fourth Circuit concluded:
Because the statute must apply to people with no reason to come to the United States other than to face charges, a “sole” or “principal” purpose test cannot stand. The principal reason such a person remains outside the United States will typically be that they live elsewhere. A criminal indictment gives such a person a reason to make the journey, and the statute is aimed at those who resist nevertheless.
Dotcom’s legal team attempted to argue, unsuccessfully, that American courts could not seize property in foreign countries. Dotcom’s lawyers also argued that Dotcom could not be considered a fugitive as he had never actually entered the United States. Ira Rothken, Dotcom’s chief global counsel, told Ars Technica, “We are disappointed in the denial of the cert petition—it is a bad day for due process and international treaties.”
“Kim Dotcom has never been to the United States, is presumed innocent, and is lawfully opposing extradition under the United States-New Zealand Treaty—yet the United States by merely labeling him as a fugitive gets a judgement to take all of his assets with no due process,” Rothken continued. “The New Zealand and Hong Kong courts, who have authority over the assets, will now need to weigh in on this issue and we are cautiously optimistic that they will take a dim view of the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine and oppose US efforts to seize such assets.”
It was recently ruled by New Zealand’s High Court that the government spying operation conducted against two of Kim Dotcom’s colleagues was not authorized under local law in 2011. This could jeopardize the countries future efforts to extradite Kim’s two colleagues.