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)
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. 7 Dividend Stocks to Buy When Safety is Your Top Priority
Capital preservation is an important objective for every investor. It's famously summed up by Warren Buffett who says his first rule of investing is to not lose money. And his second rule is to remember the first. When a bull market is racing higher, investors tend to get more aggressive. This means buying growth stocks. And in some cases these companies may not yet be generating a profit at all much less paying out a dividend.
Speculative investors would argue that the risk is worth it since, according to S&P Global, approximately two-thirds of the total return for the S&P 500 index in the last 100 years was due to capital appreciation. The other one-third comes from dividends. And when markets make a move downward, investors are seeking to hedge losses wherever they can. That's where dividend stocks come in.
In this special presentation, we're analyzing seven dividend stocks that investors can look for when they're looking for safety from market volatility. These dividends are safe and likely to continue to rise on a yearly basis.View the "7 Dividend Stocks to Buy When Safety is Your Top Priority"