New Zealand Court of Appeal upholds decision to extradite Kim Dotcom and his Megaupload colleagues

Today, the internet entrepreneur known as Kim Dotcom, born Kim Schmitz, and three of his ex-colleagues lost their appeal against an order of a New Zealand court to extradite them to the US. New Zealand’s Court of Appeal upheld earlier court rulings and decided that the three men should be handed over to US authorities. Since that decision, Kim Dotcom’s lawyer has stated that they will be looking to file an appeal with the Supreme Court of New Zealand.
Today’s Court of Appeal decision is the latest decision in the case, which began in 2012 when US authorities shut down Kim Dotcom’s website Megaupload. The authorities then filed charges of conspiracy, racketeering and money laundering against the men.
Lawyers for Kim Dotcom have argued that he cannot be held responsible for the fact that users chose to use his website for illegal purposes. He also argues that the case should be held in a civil not criminal court. Kim Dotcom’s lawyers maintain that he never lived in, visited, or owned a company in the US.

France joins Russia and US in requesting extradition of Alexander Vinnik

Alexander Vinnik has been imprisoned in northern Greece since last summer. He was originally arrested after the US requested his extradition to face charges of laundering more than $4 billion on a bitcoin trading platform. This week France joined Russia and the US who are already competing to have Vinnik extradited. French authorities would like Vinnik extradited so he can face cybercrime, money-laundering and extortion charges. The Supreme Court of Greece has already ruled in favour of extraditing him to the United States, but another lower Greek court ruled for his extradition to Russia. The case is ongoing, but it will be the Greek Justice Minister who has the final word on Vinnik’s extradition.

 

Irish Supreme Court- Gary Davis, alleged Silk Road administrator, will be extradited to the US

This week the Irish Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Mr Gary Davis who sought to prevent his extradition to the US to face a trial on charges of conspiracy to distribute narcotics, conspiracy to commit computer hacking and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The US alleges that Mr Davis was an administrator on the Dark Web drug website, Silk Road. If he is convicted in the US, he could receive a sentence of life imprisonment.

Mr Davis appealed to the Irish Supreme Court and urged the judges to refuse the request to extradite him on grounds including that he suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome.
Yesterday the Supreme Court rejected his appeal, the five judges explained that they were satisfied that Mr Davis had not established that there was a real risk that his fundamental rights would be infringed if extradited to the US.
The Irish Supreme Court had been asked to consider questions of general public importance. These included:
1. In the context of an extradition hearing, is the State constitutionally obliged to protect vulnerable persons suffering from mental illness and in what circumstances under that duty, should an extradition request be refused?
2. Is Mr Davis’s Asperger’s syndrome so severe that he should not be extradited to the US on the basis that he would suffer mental harm as a result of being imprisoned and having very little contact with his family?

The Irish Supreme Court concluded that there is a constitutional obligation on the State to protect all persons in the context of an extradition application, and not just those suffering from mental illnesses. However, it is for the person whose extradition is sought to establish that there are substantive grounds for believing that if extradited there is a real risk of being subjected to degrading behaviour in breach of Article 3 ECHR. Having reviewed all the evidence, the Supreme Court found that Mr Davis had not demonstrated such a risk. Additionally, the court added that this case was to be distinguished from the UK Supreme Court decision in the Lauri Love case because in Mr Love’s case the evidence of his Asperger’ Syndrome was much stronger regarding the effect on his mental health and the risk of suicide if extradited. The Irish Supreme Court contrasted this to Mr Davis’s case where there had been an absence of evidence that Mr Davis had undergone treatment or counselling for depression or anxiety. He had also not seen a specialist for therapy for his Asperger’s Syndrome.

After handing down their decision, the Irish Supreme Court granted Mr Davis’ lawyers a 48-hour stay on his surrender to allow his lawyers advise him on the judgement and to consider a possible referral of the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

 

Hong Kong’s first refusal of a US extradition bid

Yesterday, a US Department of State Annual report revealed that in October 2017, the leader of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, refused to extradite a detainee to the US. The detainee was placed in custody, in mainland China, and extradition was refused on the basis that Beijing was pursuing the detainee in relation to a separate criminal matter. This is the first time Hong Kong has refused to extradite a detainee to the US since the UK transferred sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997. So far, the details of the Chinese criminal matter and the identity of the detainee remain unknown.

However, the South China Morning Post has uncovered evidence of a broken extradition negotiation in the New York bribery case of Patrick Ho Chi-ping, a former Hong Kong Home Affairs Minister. In that case Iat Hong, a hacker, was arrested in Hong Kong in December 2016. Hong was charged by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for hacking into unnamed New York law firms as part of an organised hacking group that made more than 4 million US dollars. The US tried to extradite Hong, but the extradition negotiation broke down in October 2017.

In 1997 Hong Kong and the US created a bilateral agreement which has resulted in Hong Kong being able to extradite detainees to the US, however the US and China do not currently share an extradition treaty. In the case of Patrick Ho Chi-ping, the US prosecutors explained that the agreement between Hong Kong and the US contains an exception that “relates to the defence, foreign affairs, or essential public interest or policy of [China]”.

 

Venezuela to request the extradition of two alleged fraudsters, convicted in Texas, USA.

Roberto Rincon and Abraham Shiera have pleaded guilty in Texas to charges relating to the bribery of officials in a Venezuelan state oil company. Both men were involved in a scheme that embezzled $1.16bn from Venezuela’s state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). Venezuela’s chief prosecutor announced today that the extradition of Rincon and Shiera will be requested imminently as part of a wider move to secure twelve other people who are involved in corruption in Venezuela.

Killer sentenced to 10 years in US federal prison after UK’s longest extradition case

Phillip Harkins was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in the US today. Harkins was originally arrested for murder in 1999 but fled to Scotland from the US after he was remanded on bail. He was then re-arrested in Scotland in 2003 after he was charged with death by dangerous driving. His 14-year extradition case, believed to be the longest in UK history, went several times to the European Court of Human Rights. On each occasion the court ruled that there was no risk that Harkins would face the death penalty due to diplomatic assurances provided by the US; and that the possibility that he would face life imprisonment without parole did not amount to a breach of Article 3 ECHR which prohibits inhuman and degrading treatment. Harkins was finally extradited to the US in 2017. Today, the US court sentenced him to 25 years for the 2 killings and 15 years for a subsequent attempted armed robbery charge. These sentences will be served concurrently and have been reduced to take into account the years he spent in prison in the UK. Overall, this means he will be spending a further 10 years in a federal prison in the US.

Extradition from the US to Lithuania: Neringa Venckiene

A former Lithuanian parliamentarian is currently trying to avoid extradition from the US, claiming she will be murdered if she is returned to Lithuania for her involvement in the reporting of a government paedophile ring who victimised her niece. Earlier this week, her lawyers argued that she should be granted a stay of one year whilst she applies for political asylum in the US. Today, a Federal judge delayed her judgment on the potential of a year-long stay for a further month. The Lithuanian government requested Ms Venkiene’s extradition from the US for failing to obey a Lithuanian Court Order and relinquish custody of her niece. Prosecutors in Chicago argue that the charges against her in Lithuania are minor misdemeanours that have been fabricated to veil the Lithuanian government’s political motive to punish Venkiene for leading a political movement aimed at exposing government paedophilia and corruption. However, it is unlikely that she will be able to avoid extradition as the State Department approved the order for her extradition in April.