AP

To avoid US extradition, Megaupload pair plead guilty in NZ

Jun 21, 2022, 11:24 AM | Updated: 11:26 pm

FILE - Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, second left, stands with Bram van der Kolk, left, Mathias Ort...

FILE - Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom, second left, stands with Bram van der Kolk, left, Mathias Ortmann and Finn Batato, right, outside the High Court in Auckland, New Zealand, Aug. 9, 2012. Ortmann and van der Kolk, charged by U.S. prosecutors for their involvement in the once wildly popular file-sharing website Megaupload, have pleaded guilty, Wednesday, June 22, 2022, to charges in New Zealand as part of a deal to avoid extradition to the U.S. The U.S. is still trying to extradite founder Kim Dotcom. (Sarah Ivey/New Zealand Herald via AP)

(Sarah Ivey/New Zealand Herald via AP)

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — As part of a deal they struck to avoid extradition to the United States, two men pleaded guilty Wednesday in New Zealand to their involvement in running the once wildly popular pirating website Megaupload.

The pleas by Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk at the Auckland High Court ended their 10-year legal battle to avoid extradition to the U.S. on charges that included racketeering.

Those charges will be dropped under a deal with prosecutors from both countries after the pair pleaded guilty in New Zealand to being part of a criminal group and causing artists to lose money by deception. They have been released on bail pending sentencing and face a maximum ten years in prison.

The U.S. is still seeking to extradite Megaupload’s founder Kim Dotcom, who also lives in New Zealand and has said he now expects his former colleagues to testify against him.

Prosecutors say Megaupload raked in at least $175 million — mainly from people who used the site to illegally download songs, television shows and movies — before the FBI shut it down in early 2012 and arrested Dotcom and other company officers.

Ortmann told news website Stuff that after a decade of living in New Zealand on bail, the pair had firm roots in the country and were contributing to society through Mega, a legitimate cloud-storage website they set up after their arrest.

“There’s absolutely no point in dwelling on these proceedings any longer and we are putting it behind us, and accepting our responsibility,” Ortmann said.

Van der Kolk said they had learned from their mistakes.

“We’ve worked incredibly hard on Mega and we strongly feel that our rehabilitation process has started a long time ago,” he told Stuff.

Lawyers for Dotcom and the other men had long argued that if anybody was guilty in the case, it was the users of the site who chose to pirate material, not the founders. But prosecutors argued the men were the architects of a vast criminal enterprise.

Dotcom and the two other men were once close friends but had a falling out after their arrest and subsequent work on the Mega website.

U.S. prosecutors had earlier dropped their extradition bid against a fourth officer of the company, Finn Batato, who was arrested in New Zealand. Batato returned to Germany where he died from cancer earlier this month.

In 2015, Megaupload computer programmer Andrus Nomm, of Estonia, pleaded guilty in the case to conspiring to commit felony copyright infringement and was sentenced to one year and one day in U.S. federal prison.

Last year, New Zealand’s Supreme Court ruled the trio could be extradited. But the nation’s justice minister has yet to make a final decision on whether the extradition — now just of Dotcom — will go ahead.

Even that decision could be appealed and spend still more time in the slow-moving New Zealand legal system.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

3 days ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

4 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

6 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

6 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

7 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

8 days ago

To avoid US extradition, Megaupload pair plead guilty in NZ