WELLINGTON, New Zealand ( Associated Press) – Two men charged with racketeering and other crimes by US prosecutors for their involvement in the once wildly popular file-sharing website Megaupload said Tuesday they have reached an agreement that will allow them to be extradited to the US. will prevent it from happening. Exchange to face charges in New Zealand.
The deal with former Megaupload executives Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk means only Megaupload’s flamboyant founder Kim Dotcom, who also lives in New Zealand, still faces the prospect of extradition to the US in the long-running case .
US officials shut down Megaupload in 2012, saying it made at least $175 million, primarily from people using it to illegally download songs, television shows, and movies. The Justice Department calls it the largest criminal copyright case in US history.
Faced with the prospect of spending decades in US prisons if convicted, Dotcom and the other two men have fought extradition through New Zealand’s legal system for the past 10 years.
Last year, the Supreme Court of New Zealand ruled that all three could be extradited. But the final decision on extradition was up to Justice Minister Chris Fafoi. And even that decision can be appealed.
In a statement released through their attorney Peter Spring, Ortmann and van der Kool said the continuing uncertainty of the case had taken a toll on their lives and it was time to move on.
“Accordingly, we have reached an agreement with the New Zealand Government and the United States, whereby we have agreed to be charged in New Zealand with crimes similar to those faced by us in the United States.”
The pair said New Zealand was now their home “and we want to be here.”
Lawyers for Dotcom and the other men have long argued that if anyone was to blame in the case, it was the site’s users who chose to pirate the content, not the founders. But prosecutors say these men were the creators of a vast criminal enterprise.
Dotcom and the two other men were once close friends, but after the closure of Megaupload, they developed a new company, Mega.
In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Dotcom said his former friends would testify against him as part of his deal, but he did not blame him.
“I would like to congratulate our former friends and partners for finding a solution to the matter,” Dotcom wrote. “They can escape the terrible American justice system. I’m happy for them. After 10 years of American law enforcement I understand why they gave up. I don’t blame them and I sincerely wish them all the best.”
Dotcom vowed to continue fighting the case.
“I will not accept the injustice done to us,” he wrote. “Many Big Tech CEOs are in the same boat with me if I go to jail for what Megaupload users did to our site.”
US prosecutors had previously dropped their extradition bid against Fin Batato, the company’s fourth official, who was arrested in New Zealand.
In 2015, Estonia’s Megaupload computer programmer Andrus Nomm pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit felony and was sentenced to a year and a day in US federal prison.