26 Jan 2012

Two Megaupload accused bailed

7:57 pm on 26 January 2012

Two of the men charged alongside the German mogul at the centre of one of the world's biggest internet piracy prosecutions have been granted bail, taking effect next week, in North Shore District Court.

They are Dutchman Bram van der Kolk, 29, who is Megaupload's chief programmer and a New Zealand resident; and German Finn Batato, 38, its chief marketing officer.

The bail hearing for the third man, German Mathias Ortmann, 40, will continue on Friday. He is Megaupload's chief technical officer.

Authorities in the United States want the trio, along with Megaupload's founder, Kim Dotcom, extradited from Auckland to face charges in the US.

Mr van der Kolk's wife, Asia, broke down in tears when the bail decision was read out.

Outside court, she said she was overjoyed her husband would be able to return home to play with their two-year-old son.

Judge David McNaughton remanded the men in custody until next week, but only so that authorities can sort out administrative matters before they are bailed.

He put off his decision on the fourth man until Friday.

Dotcom also wants out


Kim Dotcom is appealing in the High Court against denial of bail to him.

Mr Dotcom, 37, a German national now resident in New Zealand, and his three colleagues were arrested in Auckland on 20 January at the request of American authorities.

Two corporations, Megaupload Ltd and Vestor Ltd, and three men have been charged overseas.

They are: website graphic designer Julius Bencko, 35, from Slovakia; Sven Echternach, 39, from Germany and head of Megaupload's business development; and Andrus Nomm, 32, a citizen of Estonia and resident of Turkey and Estonia, who is head of the site's development software division.

All seven accused are charged with running an international organised criminal enterprise, allegedly responsible for world-wide online piracy of numerous types of copyrighted works including books, music and movies.

American authorities allege the group has been engaged in criminal copyright infringement and money laundering on a vast scale. The US Department of Justice said the estimated harm caused to copyright-holders was well in excess of $US500 million.

The company was indicted in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, USA, last Thursday, and officials shut down its website.

'Flight risk' - judge

In Auckland on Wednesday, Judge McNaughton turned down a request for bail by Mr Dotcom while the extradition process was underway.

He said there was a real and significant risk Mr Dotcom would flee the country if released from custody.

He said he was sure Mr Dotcom had the financial resources to get forged identity or travel documents, and to arrange transport out of the country by covert means.

He remanded him in custody until 22 February when a date will be set for an extradition hearing.

Outside court Mr Dotcom's lawyer, Paul Davison, said there was no risk his client would leave New Zealand because his assets were frozen and his family was here.