The Front Page: 10 years on – Why is Kim Dotcom still in NZ?

“Why can’t we just extradite Kim Dotcom?,” is a question that’s been asked numerous times over the last decade.

With the case again in media this week after Dotcom’s co-accused Bram van der Kolk and Mathias Ortmann cut a deal with the United States, that question again made the rounds.

“We actually could,” NZ Herald investigative reporter David Fisher tells the Front Page podcast.

“There’s this draft immigration report that has been with multiple ministers since about 2015.

“I also previously did a story that Dotcom had speeding convictions that he hadn’t declared on his residency application…. As I understand it, this deportation report says: ‘hey, we can yank his residency and kick him out.'”

The problem with this approach, explains Fisher, is that it complicates our international partnerships.

“If we did that, we’d have to send him back to Germany. And if we sent him to Germany, then the US can’t extradite him and they would be really unhappy.”

For this reason, the New Zealand Government is allowing the court system to run its full course.

“There’s a natural order of things that comes into this, where the extradition process takes precedent over everything else. This process says that the US has a claim on Dotcom to appear in their courts and face up to the crimes alleged to have been committed,” says Fisher.

Fisher says it’s important to view this in the context of international agreements that impact New Zealand’s place in the world.

“We have this network of extradition treaties across that globe that say we support other comparative countries’ systems of justice in the same way that they will recognise ours. So it’s very much in our interests in terms of the cause of justice and international relations to support the US interests in making sure that Dotcom is put before a US court to face up to what he’s alleged to have done.”

In complex cases like these, justice is always a slow process – but this has been exacerbated even further because of the parties involved in this case.

“There are a number of reasons this has lagged so much,” Fisher explains.

“First, our extradition laws are a mess and the Royal Commission says they need to be overhauled. That hasn’t happened yet, but that’s one of the factors here. There’s so much room for argument and nothing’s very streamlined about our extradition laws…

“The other thing is the Dotcom factor in that he has enormous resources to pour into the case. And that means the law gets tested to its absolute extremes. I often wonder what would happen if every single defendant that came before the courts had the same opportunities, financially, as Dotcom has brought to this.”

Fisher says that Dotcom hasn’t shied away from pouring his resources into the case.

“Everything that could be appealed along the way has been appealed, not just by Dotcom but also by the New Zealand Government on behalf of the US Government. This thing has just been thrashed to death on both sides. That’s why we’re 10 years on and we’ve kind of finished the first stage.”

Asked whether he thought the matter could reach a conclusion in the near future, Fisher said he wouldn’t bet on it.

“I think there’s a good possibility that we have another three or five years in court wrangles through this case,” the journalist says.

“You might have the Justice Minister sign the extradition warrant, but then that will get appealed to the High Court through judicial review, then it will go to the Court of Appeal and on to the Supreme Court. And when you get to a point three or five years down the track, where Dotcom’s health may not be something the US system is able to deal with – and that could be good fresh grounds for bouncing extradition.”

Fisher adds there could also be an argument made that his family and business ties have such strong roots in the local community that it would be disproportionately unfair to uproot him.

All of which indicates that the Kim Dotcom saga is far from over.

The Front Page is a daily news podcast from the New Zealand Herald,available to listen to every weekday from 5am.

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