Wellington (AFP) – Lawyers for Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom questioned the validity of the internet mogul’s arrest Monday, claiming New Zealand authorities misled a judge to obtain a warrant.
More than six years after an armed police raid saw Dotcom arrested and his empire dismantled, the German national is still fighting extradition to the United States.
The legal battle reached the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Monday, where Dotcom’s lawyers will attempt to overturn two previous court rulings that went against him.
The 44-year-old is accused of industrial-scale online piracy via Megaupload.
If extradited, Dotcom and his co-accused — Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk — will face US charges of racketeering, fraud and money laundering carrying jail terms of up to 20 years.
The hearing that opened Monday is set to examine New Zealand’s extradition laws in minute detail.
Barrister Grant Illingworth, representing Ortmann and van der Kolk, said New Zealand authorities had concealed crucial information when applying for an arrest warrant ahead of the January 2012 raid.
He said the application before a District Court judge failed to disclose that New Zealand’s GCSB intelligence service illegally spied on Dotcom before police moved in.
Illingworth said the judge should have been given all relevant information.
“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.
The then-prime minister John Key apologised to Dotcom when the spying was revealed in 2012, acknowledging that as a New Zealand resident the GCSB had no right to snoop on him.
Dotcom was not present for the hearing’s opening day.
The appeal is expected to wrap up this week, although a decision from the three judges presiding over the case could take months.
Megaupload was an early example of cloud computing, allowing users to upload large files onto a server so others could easily download them.
At its height in 2011, Megaupload claimed to have 50 million daily users and account for four percent of the world’s internet traffic.
The problem, according to an FBI indictment, was that many of the files shared were copyright-protected films and music.
It alleges Megaupload netted more than $175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners $500 million-plus by offering pirated content.
Dotcom and his co-accused maintain their innocence.
He has remained outspoken throughout his legal battle and last month marked the sixth anniversary of the raid on his Auckland mansion by announcing a multi-billion dollar damages claim against the New Zealand government.