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MegaUpload execs fight to get their assets back from the US government

By | Published on Thursday 2 July 2015


So, the many MegaUpload legal wranglings rumble on, with various technicalities having been further explored since the last big development, the jailing of Andrus Nomm in relation to his involvement in running the now long defunct file-transfer platform and alleged copyright infringing business.

This week lawyers for the various former MegaUpload men that the US authorities want over allegations of rampant copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering – including the site’s founder Kim Dotcom – were back in court trying to get back $67 million worth of assets seized by the American authorities when the Mega business was shut down by the feds in 2012.

There have been various claims, arguments and court hearings over those assets, and the rights of US prosecutors to take and keep them. Last year the American authorities requested a court order that would forfeit the assets that had been seized, basically transferring ownership of the cash and property to the US government. Objections to that request from Team Mega were then ignored by the courts earlier this year, because Dotcom et al were considered “fugitives” without the right to protest.

But the former MegaUpload execs are not giving up, and this week filed an appeal with the Fourth Circuit Court, arguing that the judge which originally considered the forfeiture request violated due process and denied Dotcom and his fellow defendants their basic rights.

The appeal also disputes the defining of the former MegaUpload execs as “fugitives”, noting that while they are indeed fighting efforts to have them extradited to the US, they are doing so in accordance with the laws of the countries where they currently reside, New Zealand in the case of Dotcom.

One of MegaUpload’s lawyers, Michael Elkin, says: “The Megaupload defendants were branded by the US Department Of Justice as ‘fugitives’ for lawfully fighting extradition in New Zealand. The district court’s denial of their basic rights to defend against asset forfeiture under a ‘fugitive disentitlement’ doctrine amounts to a violation of basic due process”.

Dotcom’s lead attorney Ira Rothken has long argued that the US went after his client’s assets in a bid to limit his ability to fight the aforementioned infringement, racketeering and laundering charges.

Commenting on the latest appeal, he went on: “The DOJ in our view is trying to abuse the Fugitive Disentitlement Doctrine by modifying it into an offensive weapon of asset forfeiture to punish those who fight extradition under lawful treaties, and a provocation for international discord. Today we ask the Court Of Appeals for justice”.

The MegaUpload appeal also argues that the forfeiture ruling sets a dangerous precedent regarding the American government’s ability to take a defendant’s assets simply on the basis they are fighting extradition, rather than a court looking at the merits of the case. Say the lawyers: “That is not how our justice system works. The judgments below should be vacated and the case either dismissed or remanded for trial on the merits”.

It remains to be seen how the appeals court now responds.