Internet Tycoon Kim Dotcom Extradition Trial Begins in New Zealand

The extradition hearing of Internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom has begun in New Zealand, following three years of legal dispute and disruption.

According to The Guardian, Dotcom appeared in court on Monday sitting in a leather arm chair brought in from his home for ergonomic reasons. The Megaupload founder arrived at the Auckland courthouse dressed in his usual black attire, wearing trainers, a baseball cap and dark glasses. He declined to comment to media.

Dotcom and his associates—Mathias Ortmann, Finn Batato and Bram van der Kolk—face possible extradition to the U.S. over their alleged part in an organized criminal enterprise that was centered on Megaupload, the file-sharing website responsible for large-scale piracy and copyright offences. In 2012 the U.S Justice Department charged them with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy, conspiring to commit copyright infringement, conspiring to commit money laundering and two substantive counts of criminal copyright infringement.

The hearing, which started Monday, heralds the end of a three year long legal dispute that has included two supreme court cases, 10 delayed hearings and seen Dotcom confine himself to his Coatesville, New Zealand, mansion in order to avoid extradition.

As no charges have been brought against the men in New Zealand, the prosecution will have to show that a crime may have been committed under both U.S. and New Zealand law in order to grant an extradition. Dotcom has been on bail since his arrest in 2012.

In December, 2014, an Auckland judge rejected the U.S. claim that Dotcom had stockpiled a large sum of money before he attempted to flee New Zealand. Speaking outside the court following the ruling, Dotcom said, "I think this is another case of harassment and bullying by the United States government in concert with the New Zealand government.

"The crown and the U.S. government have used this opportunity in a weak moment to make up the bogus case for me having breached my bail conditions. I have been probably the most compliant, exemplary candidate of bail in New Zealand."

The tech tycoon lives in a mansion on a 60-acre Coatesville estate, 30km (19 miles) outside Auckland. A recent Wired profile revealed that Dotcom conducts his work from a $103,000 custom-built Swedish bed, which is surrounded by computer monitors.

According to The Wall Street Journal, because U.S. prosecutors have frozen the defendants' assets, Dotcom and his co-accusers have argued that were unable to acquire expert witnesses to mount a proper defense.

Dotcom holds German and Finnish passports and has residencies in Hong Kong and New Zealand. He established Megaupload in 2005. In 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice closed the file-sharing website and Dotcom and his associates were arrested by Auckland police. They were charged with widespread online copyright infringement, worth an alleged $175 million, and have been on bail since.

Megaupload allowed users to download movies, music, TV shows, books, as well as business and entertainment software, for free. According to a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice following the arrests of Dotcom and his associates, the indictment alleged that Megaupload had "more than one billion visits to the site, more than 150 million registered users, 50 million daily visitors and accounted for four percent of the total traffic on the Internet."

In 2014, Dotcom founded the Internet Party in New Zealand. According to the New York Times, he donated close to 3.5 million New Zealand dollars ($2.9 million) to the party, which campaigns for Internet freedom, less surveillance, copyright law reform, and a cheaper, universal Internet service. Five days before the New Zealand election, Dotcom organised an event titled "Moment of Truth," which featured journalist Glenn Greenwald, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The trial is due to last a number of months. If the U.S. is successful in its extradition, the accused could each face a total of 45 years in prison, according to the Justice Department's statement, which outlined the charges made against Dotcom and his associates.