9 Oct 2015

Crown throws doubt on Dotcom expert witnesses

1:28 pm on 9 October 2015

No amount of evidence from industry experts will erase the fact that Kim Dotcom's Megaupload business knowingly paid users for violating copyright, the Crown says.

The United States is trying to extradite Mr Dotcom and three other men on copyright violation, money-laundering and racketeering charges, related to the file-sharing website.

Kim Dotcom in court in Auckland as the main extradition hearing begins on 24 September 2015.

Kim Dotcom in court in Auckland when the extradition hearing began in September. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The main hearing has effectively been on hold this week while the North Shore District Court heard applications from the men to pause the extradition attempt, or even halt it altogether.

They argued the US prevented them from using frozen assets to pay for international expert witnesses they claim to need to properly defend the extradition attempt.

New Zealand's courts have allowed Mr Dotcom to use frozen funds to pay his legal costs, but the US has threatened to seize any of the money spent outside New Zealand.

Giving evidence as a witness earlier this week, Mr Dotcom's US lawyer, Ira Rothken, said experts in US extradition law, mass data storage and file-sharing would help them rebut the US case.

Mr Rothken estimated it would cost $US500,000 to hire the experts the legal team needed, and two to six months to brief and prepare them to give evidence.

However, in reply this morning, Crown lawyer Christine Gordon said Skype and email communications between the men showed they knowingly paid cash rewards to Megaupload users who uploaded copyright infringing files.

She cited one conversation between two of the men, Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, in which Mr van der Kolk said it would be counter-productive to stop paying rewards to users uploading illegal files, "because growth is mainly based on infringement".

No amount of evidence from industry experts about how file-sharing websites worked would counter that, Ms Gordon said.

There would therefore be no miscarriage of justice in letting the extradition hearing continue without that expert evidence.

"To stay a proceeding is an extreme step," she said.

"It's only justified in the clearest of cases, and this is not such a case."

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