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New Zealand top court lets Kim Dotcom appeal US extradition
[WELLINGTON] New Zealand's top court will hear Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom's final appeal against extradition to the United States on fraud and online piracy charges, judges said Thursday.
The German national, who is accused of netting millions from his file-sharing empire, faces charges of racketeering, fraud and money laundering in the US, carrying jail terms of up to 20 years.
A panel of five Supreme Court judges unanimously rejected an argument from lawyers representing the United States that they did not have the power to hear appeals from Dotcom and his three co-accused.
"We conclude that we have jurisdiction to entertain the proposed appeals," they said in a written judgement.
The Supreme Court is Dotcom's last avenue of legal appeal in New Zealand and had the judges accepted the US argument, he would have been out of options.
But the decision means he has one more chance to overturn a court ruling that he should be sent to the United States to face charges.
The extradition order has already been upheld by two appeal courts in a marathon case that began when armed police raided Dotcom's Auckland mansion in January 2012.
No date has yet been set for the Supreme Court appeal hearing.
The FBI-led case accuses Dotcom of industrial-scale online piracy via Megaupload, which US authorities shut down when the raid took place.
They allege the file-sharing service netted more than US$175 million in criminal proceeds and cost copyright owners US$500 million-plus by offering pirated content, including films and music.
Dotcom and his co-accused - Finn Batato, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk - have denied any wrongdoing and say Megaupload was targeted because established interests were threatened by online innovation.
The website was an early example of cloud computing, allowing users to upload large files onto a server so others could easily download them without clogging up their email systems.
At its height in 2011, Megaupload claimed to have 50 million daily users and account for four per cent of the world's internet traffic.